Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bhubaneswar Wall Paintings - Art and Crafts of Orissa

Orissa has a rich tradition of arts and crafts. Orissa had many unique art forms and expert master artisans.

Skills have been traditionally passed down generations within the family. However with not enough returns from traditional arts and diminishing interest from the younger generations of some of the traditional families, the artist lot has been a dwindling population.

However in recent times many training institutes and schools have been started by master artists and entrepreneurs to train the genuinely interested and capable youngsters and also provide them with a channel for livelihood.

Palm Leaf Painting and Etching
Palm leafs have been used since very early days of civilization as a medium of written communication. Dried palm leafs are stitched together to form booklets or long pages and they are scribbled on with a sharp metal pen. Slowly, over a period of time, illustrations were included along with the text and that eventually evolved to a full art form. Colors, derived from vegetable dyes, charcoal and other natural products are used to give vibrant colors to the paintings.
The skillful hands of master artists produce unbelievably intricate pictures on palm leaves. This art form today is much respected and still practiced in may places. They can be seen prominently displayed and traded in the lanes of Cuttak, Puri, Raghurajpur and Chitrakarashi.

Patta Chitra - Cloth Paintings
The term patta chitra has its origin from the Sanskrit. Patta means vastra or cloth and chitra means paintings. Patta chitra is the art of fine miniature painting on a specially treated cloth.

Here again vibrant natural dyes are used to color the paintings. Mostly traditional themes from the religious scriptures are picked up to be depicted - mostly tales from the Mahabharata or tales of Krishna. Also painted are intricate dance forms depicting traditional dances.
In recent times, the traditionally prepared cloth is often being replaced with easier to handle silk cloth. Similarly synthetic colors and brushes make it easier to paint beautiful pictures today than in earlier days. However workshops and training sessions conducted by organizations try to keep the traditional knowledge alive, while still modernizing wherever necessary to have better scale and economics.
The indigenous process of preparation of pattas (the cloth canvas) is very interesting. A piece of cloth is washed neatly and spread out over a flat surface like a wooden bed or floor. Tamarind seeds are powdered and mixed with water and a special gum to create a paste that is applied over the cloth.
Before this piece of cloth dries up, another piece of similarly sized cloth is placed on it and a fresh coating of the same paste is applied on it again. The dual layer cloth is now allowed to dry fully in the sun. Once it is dried, a paste of soft white stone powder which look like chalk powder, and tamarind seed gum, mixed in an ideal proportionis is applied on both sides.
After both sides dry completely the cloth is cut into appropriate sizes and polished to make them smooth and suitable for painting. Polishing is a painstaking task involving rubbing the cloth with incrementally finer and smoother polishing stones. The final polished cloth looks white in color and can be painted on directly.

Applique - Chandua
Applique (Chandua) work has been one of the most important cottage industries of Orissa, mostly encouraged by temple rituals.

Applique art involves cutting small pieces of colored cloths into interesting shapes and patterns and stitching them over a larger base cloth. Tiny mirrors in different shapes are stitched on to the cloth to add glitter. Contemporary artists sometimes also use colored beads to adorn their cloth creations.

Chanduas have been used traditionally by temples as a shade on top of the diety, or umbrellas used by the diety or the priest. In recent times, many beautiful utility items are being created from applique cloth including lamp shades, bags, beach umbrellas, wall hangings and bed and table covers. The village of Pipili, mid way between Bhubaneswar and Puri, is famous for its beautiful applique work. Many artists from this village have won national awards for this craft.

Stone and Wood Carving
Stone carving is an integral part of the arts of Orissa. Orissa is so abundantly full with intricately carved temples and sculptures that it is natural to derive this fact.

Most of the stone sculptures are made from either the softest stone - white soapstone ("Khadipathara"), or slightly harder greenish chloride ("Kochilapathara"), even harder pinkish Kandolite ("Sahanapathara" or "Baulapathara") or the hardest black granite ("Mugunipathara"). The artists use a variety of chisels and hammers depending on the stone or the kind of carving. Softer stones and finer features are finished with scraping tools and files. 'Muna' (the sharp one), 'Patili' (the thin one), 'Martual' (hammer), 'Thuk-Thuki' and 'Nihana' are some of the local names of carving tools.

Most of the carvings are of Gods & Goddesses, animals and birds (e.g. elephants, lions, monkeys, peacocks, horses), mythological creatures (e.g. Gajabidala, Gajasimha), women (e.g. Alasa Kanyas, Sura Sundaris, Salabhanjikas), mythical events (e.g. from Ramayana and Mahabharata), and images of other temples (e.g. Konark, Puri Jagannath).

The same caving skills have also been extended to wood carving. Stained and painted wood carvings (masks, toys) are created by skilled artists of Baragarh and Puri using vegetable colors and more recently chemical colors and lacquers. The deity of Lord Jagannath of Puri is also carved out of wood once every year. The same artists spend their time and earn livelihood creating other beautiful carvings in the remaining times of the year.
Another kind of carving, that is done on plain white teak which is soft. This kind of carving is done mostly in Cuttack and surrounding areas. Thy try to create beautiful figurines as found in traditional stone carvings.
Artists of a town named Dasapalla are also famous for their carving work on rosewood. These artists mostly prepare utility items like bowls, jars and incense stands and flower vases.

Metal Casting - Dhokra
Dhokra is the traditional craft of bell metal or brass metal casting of Orissa. It has tribal origins and mostly practiced by Kansaris (metal casters) and tribal families in the districts of Puri, Dhenkanal, Nayagarh, Khurda, Keonjhar, Sambalpur, Mayurbhanj, Phulbani and Ganjam in Orissa.

Dhokra is an alloy of nickel, brass and zinc. When mixed in the right proportion, it gives an antique look. Lost wax technique is used to cast beautiful designs of lamps, boxes, tribal figures and Gods and Goddess. The motifs are mostly inspired by the folk culture. Contemporary artisans also make utility items like photo frames, door knobs & handles, ash-trays and stands for pens, candles & incense sticks.
In the lost wax technique, first a model is made with easy to mold wax. The wax model is actually created over a clay base. Multiple layers of clay and wax can be used to make intricate patterns. The final mold is then headed to harden the mold and melt away the wax. Metal poured into the gaps left by the wax reproduces the model in metal. The mold is then broken away to reveal the metal art work.

Other Handicrafts
Artists of Orissa are also adept at many other forms of art and crafts like pottery, terracotta clay art, handloom and textiles made from wool, cotton and silk, baskets and utility articles made from palm leaves, bamboo and cane.

Back to the list of wall paintings in Bhubaneswar.


  1. Excellent post on several paintings of orissa state with detailed information along with pictures. A great job.

    Sir shall i use this information in my Heritage of India blog.

    Sir these are my Folk Art of Orissa tribal people on Palm Leaf which i shared in my Heritage of India blog.

    Sir these are my Warli paintings greetings cards.

    Sir recently gave my first seminar on Indian Heritage and Culture.

    Sir please look into my blog and share your valuable comments.

    Sir i hope you give me permission for using your blog's heritage related information.

    1. Dear Mr.Srinivasu. Thank you for visiting. You are welcome to use the material in my blog. Please add a reference to my blog as an acknowledgement.

      I have gone through your blogs are you seem to be a serious collector of antiques. They are really interesting. Did you collect the items yourself? It is really commendable.

      I can refer your blogs here if I have your permission. Please let me know if I can be of any help in promoting the material you have.


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