Amina Sohail Razzack
Located in the Puri district of Orissa, at first glance Raghurajpur looks like any other Orissan village.
The houses are made of bricks and roofs are thatched with straw. However, the village is home to a community of artists. In 2000, Raghurajpur was chosen to be developed as Orissa’s first heritage village after a research project undertaken by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Each house specializes in a different kind of art form and at least one person from each household is involved in a craft. There are 103 households in the village and around 311 artisans. Many have won national awards for excellence in their craft.
The artists of the village produce a variety of handicrafts such as palm leaf engravings, stone carvings, papier-mâché toys and masks that are mixed with cow dung. Paintings on ‘tussar’ (raw) silk are also one of the renowned works of the artists. However village is most famous for Pattachitra paintings.
About 14 kilometers away from the village is the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri. The Patas decorated here adorn the chariots used during the Rath Yatra festival which takes place in Puri annually.
Abhimanyu, a young artist, while showing a painting which took him eight months to complete, says: “This is our tradition (pattachitra). We make the rest for business– coconut, betel leaf, palm leaf, raw silk. People know Pattachitra.
Themes of Pattachitra are mystical stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat, including that of Lord Jagannath. It has remained a unique and distinct art as Orissa was largely untouched by invasions from Mughal rulers. Making a Pattachitra painting is an extremely tedious process. The artist comes back to the painting every day anywhere between three to eight months, refining and polishing till it achieves it final glory.
“Historians claim that this art form came about in the 12th century AD around the Jagannath cult. Even today most rituals in the Puri temple remain incomplete without the Pattachitra.
Abhimanyu’s father and grandfather also practiced the art extensively. The artwork in the village is not restricted to the canvas alone. The murals on the walls of the artists’ houses, commissioned by INTACH to revive Orissa’s traditional wall painting, display scenes from the Hindu epics.
The residents of the village take immense pride in their tradition which has been passed on through generations. The village is a living museum where every villager is an artist.