The long-preserved art of Pattachitra – painting on dried palm leaves: Raghurajpur in Odisha

Do you remember the first time you sat inside an aircraft? Or the first time you spotted a celebrity? Or the first time you received the message – ‘Salary Credited on XXXX’?

I used to dream about all this as a kid, and experienced all three when I just entered 20s. It’s a feeling that begins to build up as you near that experience. Your stomach twists a little, that probably are the butterflies. You can’t help but continue to smile because ‘good times’ are about to come. And you want to share that moment with your near ones because the joy overflows just like the fizz out of a cold drink bottle.

I also fizz up whenever I am en route to visit a place I have read about in School. These places might not be of relevance to many, but I certainly get a kick out of these trips because these remind me of the ‘good times’ I had as a child. Times when ‘sitting in an aircraft’ sounded glamorous, ‘spotting a celebrity’ would have elevated my social status to a celebrity, ‘salary’ didn’t exist but pocket money did & ‘messages’ only meant postcards or inland letters.

So, I was my soapy best (read: bubbly) when I got the chance to visit Konark Temple in February this year. Those who have had NCERT textbooks in their 8th or 9th standards would remember those couple of glossy pages in the Social Studies books. Those pages would often have pictures of known monuments from the not-so-known parts of India’s map with a high probability of appearing as one-mark-questions in final examinations. I had Konark Temple as a Question in 9th standard & I failed that question.

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But it was definitely a win in the bigger exam of Life when I discovered the true treasure in the heritage village of Raghurajpur on the way to Konark Temple in Odisha.

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Beautiful mud huts with murals on walls, mats spread out on the porch & artists standing outside their shops who welcome you with open arms, warm hearts & toothy smiles; that’s Raghurajpur. Situated at a distance of 14 kms, from the city of Lord Jagannath, Puri, the village is located on the southern bank of Bhargavi river.

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Localities here have been making pattachitra paintings from years where they make minute & intricate paintings of Gods over a dried palm leaf coated with chalk and gum. When you hold a pattachitra in your hands, it feels like the crunchy, dried leaves of autumn. The difference is that the painting doesn’t crumble & can adorn the walls of your home for years to come.

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They even make paintings on Tussar silk here along with paper maiche, traditional masks, stone art and many other handicraft items that will secure a spot in your heart right away.

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The village had been declared a hearitage place in 2000 & attract both local & foreign tourists from all over the world.

Next time you plan for Odisha, do pay a visit to Raghurajpur & buy some ingenious pattachitra paintings indigenous to the country that houses incredible talent and incredible art in every nook and corner of it.

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