The Craft Villages of Odisha

Shruthi

writes about the richness of art in Dandasahi, Raghurajpur and Pipli, the famous art villages of Odisha

Folk arts and crafts have always been amongst the most unique and attractive ways of reflecting the richness of India’s diverse culture and heritage. There are many regions in India which have developed different ways of portraying local traditions and lifestyle through their ancient masterpieces of art by using materials locally available. The art villages of Odisha contribute to the treasure of this Indigenous Cultural Heritage of India in their own exceptional way.

Natural colours used for painting

These villages are well known for their excellence in Pattachitra paintings, “Patta” means “cloth” and “Chitra” means “picture”. Dandasahi and Raghurajpur are home for many national award-winning craftsmen. The entire village community is engaged in making Pattachitra, palm leaf engraving, tribal painting, mask making etc. Their ability is to turn almost any unnoticeable thing into a treasure with their painting work of outstanding artistry.

Patta Chitra painting of Lord Krishna and Radha

Dandasahi is located at a distance of 12km from Puri, Odisha. As you enter this calm village with swaying coconut palms, the artwork of tribal paintings at every doorstep are simply adorning. A very famous gurukul here, Ananta Maharana Gurukul, is run by a family of a national award-winning 80yr old Shilpaguru Ananta Maharana. Many students come here to master the famous art of Pattachitra painting.

As explained by the Shilpaguru’s grandson, a craftsman himself, the art of Pattachitra painting done here is a worship. Ancient Hindu mythological stories are brought to life through the art which cannot be achieved unless one puts his heart and soul into it to assimilate and feel the legendary story that is being painted. The flow of imagination in the artist’s mind comes as an intricate sensational work on the canvas, dried palm leaf, coconut and areca nut shells etc. The famous Puri Jagannath paintings are done here.

The canvas which is the base for the painting is made from cloth. A gum made from tamarind seeds is applied between multiple layers of cloth to make it stiff. Then is dried and smoothened by rubbing with stones to make it ready to be painted. The basic colors which are used are white (made from seashell powder) , blue, red, and yellow(made by powdering the natural stones available in few tribal villages), and  black (made from the soot collected from burning of a coconut shell. The stone/seashell powder is then mixed with water and natural gum from tamarind seeds to make the paints. These paints are not waterproof but everlasting if handled carefully. The natural leaf and floral colors are also used in certain cases. The Pattachitra paintings are also done on fabric using fabric paints. Look out for a video we will publish shortly to know how exactly it is done. Palm leaf engraving is done by carving the palms with iron lead and henna leaves are used to fill the engravings with color.

Another art village, Raghurajpur is very near to Chandanpur, which is a few km drive from Puri. This quaint village located amidst the shades of coconut-palm stands on the banks of the river Bhargavi. This is a heritage village with about 200 houses. Each house has a unique story painted on its walls making you get the feel of walking in an art gallery. Every house here is an artist’s workshop and has an art piece in making at any time. Many are involved in Pattachitra painting, stone carving, paper mache, mask making, toy painting etc.

Painting made on palm leaves

These villages have ultimate richness in art and are protected as heritage site by the The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Although sadly the poverty here is slowly making many artists disappear from the place to form a new livelihood, the craftsmen are doing a remarkable job by keeping this fascinating art alive even while their financial crisis makes it very hard for them to continue and preserve this art.  The artists are more happy to see visitors in these villages and showcase their rich art than being paid for their work. If you are planning to buy any pieces of work , please do choose from these villages rather than buying from any galleries in the nearby towns.

Paper mache work.
pattachitra work made on tussar silk
paintings made on coconut shell
paper mache work at display

These art villages are a must visit in Odisha. Bring home some of these unique pieces of art if you are visiting these places. Dandasahi and Raghurajpur are remotely located and hence it may be difficult to track down these places. Do not get misguided by the taxi drivers. Look for the board saying Raghurajpur Heritage Village and The Ananta Maharana Gurukul in Dandasahi. Hope you enjoyed reading our article. We would love to hear your thoughts about this art.

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