A unique pack of cards

Artist Sitakanta Mahapatra showing different types of Ganjapa at his home in Berhampur.— Photo: Lingaraj Panda

Artist Sitakanta Mahapatra showing different types of Ganjapa at his home in Berhampur.— Photo: Lingaraj Panda  

Four generations of a family of artists are continuing to keep alive traditional Ganjapa art form of Ganjam district.

It all started with Laxman Rupakararatna, who was the royal artist of Chikiti royal family of Ganjam district. His traditional Ganjapa paintings are preserved by art lovers in Italy, America, Japan, England as well as different parts of India. During his lifetime he took part in workshops on Ganjapa painting throughout the country. His son Appana Mohapatra also continued the tradition

Adherence to traditional drawing and painting did not die in the family as Appana’s son Sitakanta Mohapatra carried on the family tradition. He took professional training in graphics and applied art and has retired as an art teacher of Kendriya Vidyalaya. Even in his advanced age at his residence in Ambapua area of Berhampur he continues to keep alive the traditional Ganjapa painting form. Sitakanta’s son Prithwiraj Mohapatra is also a professional artist who serves Kendriya Vidyalaya, Berhampur as an art teacher. He has also taken up traditional Ganjapa painting to keep alive the traditional art. Ganjapa painting sets are traditional playing card packs of Odisha. These traditional playing cards are circular and the paintings on them are drawn in traditional pattachitra style of Odisha. All colours used in the Ganjapa paintings are natural and they are still painted by Sitakanta in old traditional way. Earlier they were used as playing cards by royal class as well as common mass throughout Odisha. But now number of Ganjapa players has gone down drastically. Ganjapa playing card sets are now mostly used as decorative collective items for art lovers.

Each Ganjapa playing card set contains 98 or 104 cards. As each card is hand painted, each pack of Ganjapa cards differs from the other. Moreover, artists use their own imagination and knowledge of Indian mythology to make the characters drawn on the cards more attractive. “The Ganjapa cards designed by my grandfather and father were very different from the cards drawn at Raghurajpur near Puri and we are keeping alive that unique style”, said Sitakanta.

All family members of a Ganjapa painter family, like that of Sitakanta’s family get involved in the painting process. Woman members prepare the glue, the traditional canvas and give the final lacquer coating. The master artist, mostly the male member, draws the initial line and gives the final touch. Sitakanta claimed that traditional Ganjapa painting packs of his family can survive centuries.

Sitakanta has received several accolades for his skill and artistry. He was also honoured with Dharmapada award, the top honour of Odisha Lalit Kala Akademi. According to him there is extreme need of a proper marketing network so that genuine traditional Ganjapa card packs produced by modern traditional artists could reach out to art lovers in different parts of the country and abroad.

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