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Palm Leaf Paintings of Orissa

Palm leaf paintings of Orissa are one of it's most ancient art form. The Palm Leaf illustrations of Orissa are mainly of two types

1) Simple engravings or illustrations in pure line on palm leaf
2) Engraving with color fillings

Palm Leaf PaintingMost of the palm leaf engravings in Orissa are simple. Horoscopes were traditionally written on palm leaves by professional horoscope makers known as Nahakas. These were simple engravings.

The color engravings are those which use colors in the process of engravings. In these engravings, colors are muted and play a very minor part. Wherever colors were applied, they are just painted either to emphasize the inscriptions, or to fill up blank space. Religious texts basically form the major chunk of colored engravings.

Palm leaf is a sacred art of Orissa and even to this date horoscopes continue to be written in Palm leaf. The respect that this art form commands in Orissa can be gauged from the fact that even after the advent of printing presses in Orissa, important texts continued to be printed on the leaves instead of paper. The printing of New Year cards and wedding invitations on palm leaf is still followed in Orissa.

Palm Leaf Painting - The technique

Palm Leaf Painting From OrissaRows of same sized palm leaves are first arranged together and sewn. These neatly sewn palm leaves are then folded in such a way so as to make a pile. These paintings are first etched out, which means that the designs and images are neatly etched on the surface of the palm leaf using a sharp pen or stylus like object. Ink (or a concoction of charcoal of burnt coconut shells, turmeric and oil) is then poured along the lines; the lines are now defined. Vegetable dyes are also added to give these paintings some color, but these paintings are mostly, dichromatic (black and white). The panels of the paintings are unfolded like a fan to reveal a beautiful patta chitra.

Palm Leaf Paintings - The themes

Mythological themes dominate most pattachitra paintings; scenes from the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata are lovingly depicted. Local legends and folklore too find their way into the paintings. Legends of Lord Jagannath,Radha and Krishna, Durga, Ganesha and Saraswati are the most commonly used Gods and Goddesses

.This ancient art form has found admirers far and wide. Not only does the intricate designs and aesthetic depiction of Gods and Goddesses attract ones attention, the use of the leaf adds to the quaint charm of the Art form. This form painting is hailed as very eco friendly too. Today there are small towns exclusively dedicated to this art form in Orissa. One can visit the towns of Raghurajpur and Chitrakarashi to see the artists at work. A first hand sampling of this art form is a must for all art lovers.

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