Pattachitra refers to the art of producing images (‘chitra’), usually of a devotional theme, on a locally produced canvas called ‘patti’ in the vernacular. Fashioned from fabric treated with a range of organics such as chalk and cow-dung, the patta is then superimposed with naturally derived pigments (think soot for black and rice paste for ivory). Given the time and complexity it demands, a great deal of skill goes into making a pattachitra such as the one you see on this page.
This pattachitra is a composite of thirty-six miniature panels. Each panel is a visual narrative of the Lord Vishnu at various stages of His divinity and incarnation. For example, the first panel on the first row depicts Him sleeping in the coils of Sheshanaga, with His wife and the rest of the trinity looking on. In the fifth panel of the third row, His Krishnaroopa triumphs over the vicious Kalinga.
A vivid scarlet ochre colour, with a hint of charcoal for contrast, makes up the background of each of the panels. The space between panels is a monotone tangerine. On the tangerine is a curvaceous vine pattern punctuated by flowers whose petals are in tints of the same colour. They are poised at all the corners where the edges of multiple panels meet.
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