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Janmashtami Special (Aug. 12)

Sunday, Aug 09, 2020 15:30 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Aug 09, 2020 09:52 [IST]

Janmashtami Special (Aug. 12)

Krishna in Pattachitra

S. BALAKRISHNAN
Lord Krishna is an artist’s delight. His pranks/mischiefs as a child, His chivalrous deeds as He grew up, His romance with Radha and gopikas, and His role as a master strategist for the Pandavas and also as Partha (Arjun)’s Sarathy (Charioteer) during the epic Mahabharat war are never ending and ever fascinating themes - be it painting & sculpture, song & dance, literature, etc. His leelas are a divine delight.
Naturally, therefore, any art collector would knowingly or unknowingly have at least one art piece depicting his leela. That is invariable. So do I have a few art pieces on Krishna. One of them is the unique ‘Pattachitra’ painting of Lord Krishna’s Kaalinga narthana leela. Pattachitra is one of the oldest tribal/folk art form still prevailing in Odisha. Patta in Sanskrit is cloth/canvas and chitra is picture. This form of painting is said to be as old as the origin of Lord Jagannath Himself; it can be observed that the painting done on the images of the trio - Lord Jagannath, Balabadrah and Subadhra - is similar to pattachitra style.
Pattachitra is a tedious traditional process, though. The canvas base on the cloth is prepared with a coating of white stone powder of chalk and tamarind seed paste. This is rubbed on the cloth with two different stones, giving a smooth and leathery finish to the canvas. Generally the border of the chitra is done first. Then the rough sketch of the theme is done directly on the canvas with brushes made indigenously by the artists themselves. Then the colouring part is undertaken mainly with bright colours such as red, yellow, indigo, white and black. The pattachitra is finally held over fire and applied a lacquer coating to give a glossy touch that also makes the painting water-cum-weather resistant. The paint is also made indigenously from vegetables, earth and mineral sources. The intricately done paintings are mainly based on religious (Vaishnav sect), mythological and folk themes. Needless to say, Lord Jagannath and leelas of Krishna form the main core.
Traditionally, artists from Mahapatra or Maharana caste, the original artiste caste in Odisha, prepare Patachitra paintings. With changing times and needs, they have taken to painting it on different material like wood (including coconut and areca nut), tassar silk, palm leaf, etc., and in different shapes and sizes like toys, alphabets, numerals, playing cards, etc. Though this traditional art form is found in Puri, Raghurajpur, Paralakhemundi, Chikiti and Sonepur, Raghurajpur is exclusively well known for pattachitra. Located some 12 km from Puri, almost all the 120 homes in this village have one or more pattachitra artist each. However, there was a time when this art form was languishing; it was revived and given a fillip in the 1940s by an American art connoisseur, Ms. Helena Zealy.
The Kaalinga/Kaliya narthana pattachitra painting that I possess is nearly 40 years old; my transfer from Andamans to the then Orissa (now Odisha) in 1980 was not a permanent one, I knew from the start. It was a stop-gap arrangement; I was filling up a post that fell vacant due to deputation; so it was a hot seat. It was my bad habit to collect at least one piece each of all the art forms of my places of posting. So it was no wonder that I bought this pattachitra painting, unique to Odisha, among other handicraft items. You won’t believe its price – just Rs.32.80! It measures 20”x13”. A pattachitra of this size now costs 2,500 rupees, 80 times the original price! The wooden English alphabet chart cost Rs. 31.75 and 1-10 numerals chart Rs. 21.60. These two charts I bought for my nephews. Usually I buy handicrafts from government emporia to ensure they are genuine; so these were purchased from ‘Utkalika’, Odisha Government’s Handicraft Emporium, in Cuttack & Bhubaneswar. This is a beautiful painting of Krishna dancing on the hood of the seven-headed Kaliya, after defeating him in the waters of Yamuna river. A simple yet striking painting with all minute details finely etched, it drew my attention immediately. As a Vaishnavaite myself, it seemed Lord Krishna Himself chose me. This reminds me of a popular Carnatic song in Yamuna Kalyani raga in Kannada language “Krishna, nee begane baro”, meaning “Krishna, you come hither soon”.
krishnanbala2004@yahoo.co.in / 9840917608 Whatsapp

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi