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The History of Pattachitra Paintings

Pattachitra painting is one of the most popular art forms of Odisha. The name Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit words patta, meaning cloth, and chitra, meaning picture. Pattacitra paintings are closely related to Lord Jagannath of Puri, Odisha. Lord Jagannath is considered an avatar of Lord Krishna.

Story Behind Pattachitra Painting

On Poornima (full moon day) of the Jyeshta month (May-June), also referred to as the birthday of Lord Jagannath, the deities of Jagannath temple are taken for a religious bath to overcome summer heat. After the bath, deities are escorted to Anasar Ghar (sick house) by the Daita servitors in pahandi where they would be treated for fever as it is believed that they suffer from fever after the elaborate bath.

Idols of Lord Jagannath, his sister Subhadra and brother Balabhadra will be treated by the temple Vaidya (physician), who will administer herbal medicines and keep the deities on the diet of dry food and fruit for a fortnight. During this time many devotees visit the temple from different parts of the world to witness the Snana Yatra (Procession of bathing). But public ‘darshan’ remains closed for 15 days and the deities would reappear a day before Rath Yatra in their youthful form known as Nabajouban darshan. And here comes the true purpose of pattachitra paintings. Pattachitra paintings of Lord Jagannath, Subhadra and Balabhadra originated to serve as the substitute to the idols. So that the devotees can worship the deities during the period when they are kept away from the public after the bath. This is the reason pattachitra paintings were initially named Anasar patti.


Making Of Patta

The “Patta” of pattachitra paintings is prepared using cotton cloths. Some artists even use old-saris which are starch-free. All this material is layered and connected by the paste. Surprisingly, the paste is made with tamarind seeds. The tamarind seeds are soaked in water for about three days and are then ground into a gummy paste called “Niryas Kalpa”. After achieving the desired thickness, the cloth is dried. Patta is ready.


Painting’s Natural Colors:

Completely natural colors are used in painting. White color is obtained by grinding sea-shells into a milky paste. Black is obtained from heating earthen plates over a candle. The collected smoke is utilized as black color. The green color is made from green leaves and green stones.

Local stones of Odisha are used for the production of different colors. Hingula stone is used to make the red color, Harital for yellow while Khandaneela is used to obtain blue color. The significance of the main painting of Lord Jagannath is Pancha-Tatwa (Five colors). Hasya rasa (Laughter) is described by white color, red color is used to portray Raudra-rasa (Anger) and Adbhuta-rasa (Astonishment) in yellow. Mouse hair is used to make fine hair brushes while buffalo hair or keya root is used for coarse hair.

Pattachitra-Paintings As Story-Teller:

Pattachita paintings are also used to portray many facets of Lord Vishnu. Lord Jagannath is regarded as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The pattachitra painting of Dash-Avatar of Lord Vishnu is offered to Lord Jagannath’s idol with musical recitation through fables.


Pattachitra paintings are a common mode of worshipping gods and goddesses in Odisha. Episodes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavad Gita are painted and recited.

Another such tale that is painted and adorned through villages in Odisha is Gita-Govinda. Gita-Govinda is a literature work portraying Radha and Krishna’s romance.

Odia folklore is another fascinating subject painted and recited. Nartaki, a dancing girl in Odissi dancing posture, is another famous and elaborately painted pattachitra painting.




Artists live and work on the amazing paintings in the Raghurajpur, a town 15 km far from Puri. The home of this art, Raghurajpur was declared as a “Heritage Village” by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage in the year 2000.


Also, Do check Rashtrakutas: The Patrons of Art And Architecture


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