Pata is a Sanskrit derivation which literally
means canvas so pata-painting means a scroll painting on canvas.
The art of Pata Painting (or pata chitra) is practiced by the
artists of Orissa, a state on the Eastern Coast of India.
The painter first chooses two pieces (generally
tussar silk) of cloth and he sticks the pieces together by means
of a paste prepared from tamarind seeds. They are then dried in
The tamarind paste is traditionally prepared as
follows: The tamarind seeds are first kept in water for two to
three days. When the seeds swell and become soft, these are ground
with a pestle stone till the formation of a jelly like substance.
In an earthen pot some water is poured along with this substance
which is finally heated into a paste. The pieces of cloth thus
pasted into one become a Patti.The Patti may be of an area of
a few square meters. After the Patti is dried it is rolled up
and from this roll, pieces of pata are cut and utilised for individual
The colors are hand prepared by the artists from
natural ingredients like china-clay, soft clay(chalk), conch shell,
red stone etc. The black color is prepared from charcoal powder.
For white, the artists use sea shells which are available in plenty
on the sea shores of Orissa, the home of pata paintings. The sea-shells
are powdered and the powder is kept mixed with some water for
two days.The mixture is stirred properly until it becomes soft
and milky. This milky liquid is then heated with the gum of Kaitha
fruit (Feromia Elephantum). The paste thus prepared is then dried
in the sun to form a solid substance.
Black color is prepared by holding an earthen
plate over the smoke of a burning wick. The soot thus collected
at the bottom of the plate is thickened to a black substance.
This is mixed with the gum of Kaitha fruit when used as black
color in painting.
Green color typically is prepared from the juice
of green leaves which is boiled and gum is mixed in the same proportion.
The materials used by these artists are totally
of an indigenous character. To unite the colors they utilise wooden
bowls made of dried coconut shells. The coarse brush is prepared
from the root of a local plant called keya. Hairs of brushes are
collected from a buffalo's neck, more fine brushes require the
hair of mouse. These brushed are fixed to wooden handles. They
are usually kept in the quivers made out of a hollow joint of
a thick bamboo tree. The brushes may also be sometimes stored
in leather cases or in dried pumpkin bowls.
It is truly said of these Pata paintings that
" Strange is this world of Pata paintings, a world in itself,
where every article and ornament keeps its unchanging shape, its
place and importance, where every animal has its own stylized
features, every personality its unerring marks of identification
defined by the ancient texts, religious myths and local tradition.
It is a world of myths and gods, but still more it is a world
of folk imagination, the reflection of thinking and of the mental
scope of millions of Indian peasants, fishermen and craftsmen,
their joys, their hardships, binding faith and exacting beauty.
So the paintings speak the language of their creators, they give
realistic expression, a clear symbol, humorous details. They are
familiar to the eye, close to the heart, bringing joy and expressing
Indeed the immensity of life and the diversity
of the divine come together and stand in one in these Pata paintings.
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