The small village of Raghurajpur in rural Odisha is a treasure trove of art and artists
Words SAMARPAN BHOWMIK Photographs KRISHNA PRABAKAR T
The attention to the most intricate of details is astonishing, the colours vibrant and with each stroke reflecting generations of skill. When you come across your first pata chitra, you’ll be blown away by all these different aspects of what is considered among the most popular regional art forms from across the country.
Off the National Highway 316, on the way from Bhubaneswar to the temple towns of Puri and Konark lies the village of Raghurajpur in Odisha. It looks like any other village in rural India. Just about 20 to 30 tiny, concrete houses clustered together along a couple of streets. Look closer, and you’ll notice there’s something slightly different.
Nearly every family in this village has an artist or two in it. On any given day, if you wander past the red brick archway with a little board that says artist village Raghurajpur, you’ll spot people on every porch, engaged in creating some kind of art form or the other, from pata chitra (painting on cloth) and tal patra chitra (painting on palm leaves) to carving on cowrie shells.
Some families, such as the Guins, have several artists as members, and turn out as many as nine different kinds of products. We’re invited into the house to better understand the process. All the paint is manufactured from natural ingredients. Old saris or palm leaves are recycled to serve as the canvas, and the depicted scenes are inspired by tales of Hindu mythology.
That this is an abode of artists is quite evident in the smallest details. Even the small village temple has ornate figures and motifs on its walls, and almost every house has patterns and art painted on walls. The art from Raghurajpur is not just a piece of local culture, it’s an entire eco-system that has supported the regional economy for centuries.