Bhubaneswar: As three cars of tourists make their way into the heritage crafts village of Raghurajpur in Odisha’s Puri district which is famous worldwide for its ‘Pattachitra’ art, the villagers display anxious looks.
Sitting in the foyers of their houses which are artistically painted, they look up curiously at the visitors in the car before passing a smile. Some turn back to carefully paint the ‘Pattachitra’ while some welcome the visitors with folded hands.
In the middle of the village which has houses in two rows facing each other, is the house of Bhagaban Swain, a 65-year-old retired school teacher. The four walls of the medium sized room are packed with shelves displaying the ancient Pattachitra paintings beside various other forms on wooden and stone carved pieces.
Bhagaban Swain’s son Shibanarayan Swain, 23 is doing MCA from Odisha University of Agriculture & Technology, Bhubaneswar and takes pride in displaying the art forms like Patta painting, Tasser painting and palm leaf engraving that has been the tradition for not only his family but the approximately 160 houses in the village. His mother Sakhi too has mastered the art with perfection.
“This is my ancestral work, though I am doing MCA, I will make sure I take the art forward and bring more acknowledgement and pride to Raghurajpur village. I have mastered the art from my father and uncle Biswanath Swain who was a national awardee in palm leaf engraving. My professional degree would help me to take the art to another level,” Shibanarayan Swain says as he carefully picks up a Pattachitra painting from the shelves.
There are others in the village too who are professional degree holders but have continued with the traditional art form.
“There are many professionally qualified people in the village. They take pride in the art for the village. A man in the village is a chartered accountant, one is a supply inspector and another a traffic officer,” Shibanarayan said.
A few metres away from the Swain house in the opposite lane, separated by a temple, a young girl Pragya Vernita Das stands with her younger brother. She has beautifully displayed the various miniatures of deities and temples on the door.
“I am doing graduation but I have learnt the art at an early age. I will continue to balance studies with the art form. Even if I decide to do a job one day I will make sure that I keep finding time to do Pattachitra and other art forms our village Raghurajpur is famous for,” Pragya said with a smile.
A few steps ahead, five boys are seen cheering one who is playing a mobile game. A loud roar is heard, an indication the player Joyant Maharana has won.
“Me and my brother Chandan have learnt the village art from our parents. It is our duty to take the art forward and make Raghurajpur famous at the international front,” said Joyant.
The tourism department of the state also has a development programme for the heritage village.
“We also have plans to develop the village Raghurajpur in near future as the village has much tourist and the traders’ footfall from across the world. We would ensure better coordination between the villagers and the visitors,” said Vishal K. Dev, commissioner-cum-secretary, Department of Tourism, Odisha.
Patta means cloth and Chitra means paintings, so Pattachitra is essentially a painting on a piece of cloth. The popular forms of Pattachitra are the paintings on cloth depicting scenes from mythology and epics, the Tassar cloth Pattachitra are also popular worldwide.
The Pattachitra etched on dried palm leaves are picked up as souvenirs, also the paper mache masks and paintings on coconut. Apart from these, artists also engage in making miniature temples and deities and toys of stone and wood with paintings on them.
By Zafar Abbas
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