Art

Handing down heritage

Carrying on a great legacy of traditional art. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy  

The Buddha is in the centre in his teaching pose. The three reasons that propelled him towards sainthood — old age, disease and death — are depicted around him in three panels. In the fourth panel, his minister points towards an old hermit meditating under a tree. Around this central theme in little boxes are the story of the Buddha's birth, of his enlightenment and all the popular incidents surrounding his life.

The intricacy of this ancient piece of traditional Odishi art, pattachitra, painted using simple earthy colours, is astounding. Next to it there are more paintings, largely of Krishna and Radha, Jagannath, Ganesha, Shiva, a few among the plethora of Indian gods. These paintings resemble temple architecture and the paintings found on temple ceilings depicting tales from Indian mythology.

“A small painting usually takes about five days, bigger ones could take up to a week and the miniatures require close to a month,” says Smrutirekha Sahu, daughter of the National-award winning pattachitra painter Rabindra Nath Sahu.

Making natural colours

She and her sister have accompanied their father to Bangalore's Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, where her father is conducting a pattachitra workshop until December 11.

“What's unique about the art form is that we make our own canvas and medium. The canvas is made using cloth on which a gum made of tamarind seeds and then chalk powder is applied. Next, the cloth is scrubbed with a flat, oval pebble and dried in the sun,” she adds.

The colours are all natural. Conch shells are used to extract a bright, long-lasting white, geru stones are used to make brown, harital stones are used for yellow, hingula is a mineral stone used for red, charcoal made of coconut shell is used for black and indigo, for blue. Wood apple gum is used as a medium to mix the colours.

“These days, artists have begun to use commercial colours because the natural materials are becoming rare and expensive,” she says, ruefully, pointing at the samples of the materials displayed on a table at the back of the hall.

The workshop seeks to teach participants the art in ten methodical steps. “First a rough sketch is done, and the background colours are applied. Next the character colours are filled, followed by the ornamentation. The thick black lines and the fine black lines are then filled. Then the fine ornamental work and the designs are painted. Finally, the fine white lines and the background designs are painted,” says Rabindra Nath.

“It takes a lot of practise,” adds the master pattachitra painter who has won the national award for his Raag Chitra paintings in 1994. He has been painting for over 40 years.

Those interested in participating in the pattachitra workshop at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Race Course Road, can contact 8861223471 or 9980055864.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 5:49:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/handing-down-heritage/article2684139.ece

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