There is a sense of pride in the artist’s eyes. He is explaining to me what it is to possess a Tala-Pattachitra.
‘ It is a legacy you are acquiring madam, a priceless masterpiece that does not fade and which occupies a place of pride in your home. You will be proud to pass it on to future generations,’ he insists. He is talking about his creations, the Palm leaf engraving- Tala-Pattachitra from Orissa.
His pride makes me feel strangely happy. You see, he is talking about an ancient Orissan palm leaf art – perhaps a thousand year old heritage from Orissa and Indian heritage is something I am rather cocky about.
More about Tala-Pattachitra art:
The creations are all done on Palm leaves. The fine drawings are from manuscripts. The details could be from mythological tales like Ramayana, Mahabharata, tales of Lord Jagannath of Puri temple…. But what makes them striking is that a thin stylus made from iron called Lekhana is used to engrave these illustrations. The artist or the Pattachitrakar as he is called, definitely requires a skilled and steady hand!They are so fine and detailed.
I see the engravings dyed in a striking black color. And I ask him how they color these fine line drawings. To which he replied,’ Madam, we rub the palm with a black dye or soot or charcoal powder. The areas that don’t require the color are rubbed with a piece of wet rag.’ The color now becomes a part of these creations. Soot from the hearth , straight in to the handcraft!
The engravings are done in a single leaf- more often in four to five leaves or even more and stitched together.The result could be a scroll with a flap that neatly show off the illustrations and perhaps even a verse or two.
History of Pattachitra Paintings:
Orissa has a rich history. Though it comes in our history text books in the notoriously popular Ashoka- Kalinga war, it was an independent State before, that proved a formidable opponent to Mauryan dynasty. Over the centuries it has been ruled by various rulers -Samudragupta, Harshavardana, Gangas etc. It came under Mughals, the Nawabs of Bengal ,Marathas and the British too. Culturally it is a potpourri of various religions- Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and the heterogeneous tribal religions as well. This is reflected in their arts and crafts. The Patachitra or the palm leaf art and illustrations depict this medley.
Originally the Tala-Pattachitra was created by the Nayakar community. They were astrologers and used such palm leafs to create birth horoscopes of newborns. Today this art-craft is seen in the state of Orissa especially in Bhubaneshwar, Ganjam,Puri and Raghurajpur regions. And it has adapted to the changing times. The palm leaf now sees itself as wall hangings, lamp shades, fans,bookmarks etc so that it gels in to a contemporary home theme.
If you would like to know more about this art-craft then Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat is the place to be. Check out their art and craft section. Support the artisans by buying a piece of this heirloom.