Episodes from the Life of Rama (Ramayana)

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Item Code: PK06
Artist: Rabi Behera
Watercolor on PattiArtist Rabi Behera
Dimensions 35.0 inches X 25.0 inches
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Free delivery
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Fully insured
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
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Fair trade
This exceptionally colourful pata-chitra, a painting on cloth pasted on paper, rare in lustre and astonishing in minuteness of details, with canvas space divided into forty-eight identical octagons of equal sizes, represents forty-eight episodes from the life of Rama. Not only that the events represented here do not have the same sequence as they occurred in the life of Rama or as they have been serialized in different texts some of them also lack clarity as to which event from his life they illustrated; however, whichever episodes the pata-chitra has covered it gives a broad idea of his life and its all major events.

As is typical of Orissa tradition, the octagon on the top right portrays Lord Vishnu reclining on the coils of the great serpent Shesha with Lakshmi massaging. The second and the third octagons represent sage Shrangi brought to Ayodhya from across the river Sarayu for performing the ‘ajna’ for king Dasharatha which blessed him with four sons; the fourth, performance of ‘ajna’; the fifth, Dasharatha distributing among his queens the remnant of food offered to Agni at the ‘ajna’; the sixth, all three queens with four children, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharat and Shatrughna; the seventh, the child Rama delighting king Dasharatha and mother Kausalya; and the last in the top row, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharat and Shatrughna at Gurukula.

From right to left, the first octagon in the second row portrays Manthara, the confidante of queen Kekeyi, poisoning Kekeyi’s mind against Rama; the second, Rama and Lakshmana going with sage Vishvamitra; the third, Sita wedding Rama; the fourth, Nishada, chief of Shrangaverapura, praying Rama to be his guest; the fifth, redemption of Ahilya, the wife of sage Gautam transformed into a rock by his curse; the sixth, Rama and Lakshmana encounter the she-demon Tadaka; the seventh, sage Vishvamitra introducing Rama and Lakshmana to king Janaka; and the eighth, Dasharatha’s all four sons learning archery at Gurukula.

The first octagon in the third row from the top illustrates Rama, Lakshmana and Sita leaving for forest; the second, Dasharatha’s all three queens grieving over is dead body; the third, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in the forest; in the fourth, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita at sage Atri’s hermitage where Sita meets Anasuya, sage Atri’s wife; in the fifth, Sita making offering to Ganga which her hand accepts; in the sixth, Lakshmana severing Surpanakha’s nose; in the seventh, Surpanakha complaining of Rama and Lakshmana to her brother Ravana; and the last, demon Marichi, disguised as golden deer, beguiles Rama, Lakshmana and Sita.

The fourth row from the top illustrates the episodes : first, Rama and Lakshmana at mount Kishkindha that monkey chief Sugriva occupies; second, Rama and Lakshmana witnessing Bali and Sugriva battling; third, Sugriva expressing his inability in facing Bali; fourth, Ravana abducting Sita in his ‘vimana’ – aircraft; fifth, Rama and Lakshmana performing death-rites of Jatayu, the Great Bird; sixth, the great bird Jatayu confronting Ravana when he was abducting Sita; seventh, Ravana abducting Sita in disguise as a hermit; and lastly, before leaving Sita alone at Panchavati Lakshmana draws around the cottage a line that burnt any intruder crossing it and it also set limits for Sita to cross.

The row second from bottom represents: one, Rama giving to Sugriva his garland to distinguish him from his brother Bali; two, Hanuman heading towards mount Mainak in the sea to rest for a while; three, Hanuman at Vibhishana’s house where he finds him worshipping Rama’s image; four, Hanuman meets Sita at Ashoka-vatika in Lanka; guards looking after her fall in deep slumber; five, perhaps Hanuman confronting Meghanatha or one of Ravana’s other sons; six, tied with a rope Hanuman produced before Ravana; seven, Hanuman burning down Lanka; and the last, Nala, Nila and others spanning ocean across to Lanka.

The bottom row begins from right to left with : Rama, Lakshmana and Sita meet after killing Ravana; the second, Sita enters fire to prove her chastity; third, Vibhishana enthroned : Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman witnessing; the fourth, Rama killing Ravana; the fifth, Rama killing Kumbhakarana?; the sixth, for reviving Lakshmana hit by the ‘shakti’ of Meghanatha Hanuman fetching the herb Sanjivini from Himalayas; the seventh, Lakshmana killing Meghanatha, Ravana’s eldest son; and lastly, when not offered a seat at Ravana’s court, Rama’s emissary Angada expands his tail and coils it to make a seat taller the Ravana’s.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

Mastering the Ancient Technique: Exploring the Meticulous Creation of Pattachitra Paintings

The traditional Pattachitra is a scroll painting that is done on cloth. This is revealed in the name; Pattachitra is a Sanskrit term made from two words i.e. Patta meaning cloth and Chitra meaning picture. The main subject of this painting is portraying Hindu mythological narratives, scenes from religious texts, and folktales. Pattachitra paintings are especially practiced in eastern Indian states such as West Bengal and Odisha, and also in some parts of Bangladesh. This art form is closely related to Shri Jagannath and the tradition of the Vaishnava sect. It is believed that Pattachitra art originated in the 11th century and the people of Odisha practice it even today without any discrepancy. Bengalis use these scroll paintings for ritual purposes (as a visual device) during the performance of a song or Aarti.
Pattachitra paintings are characterized by creative and traditional motifs/designs, decorative borders, and bright colorful applications. The outline of the figure and motifs are bold and sharp. Some common shapes and motifs seen in these paintings are trees, flowers, leaves, elephants, and other creatures. The artists of Odisha and Bengal still use the traditional method of painting which gives a unique look to it altogether.

1. Canvas is prepared

The process of painting a Pattachitra begins by preparing the canvas (patta). Generally, cotton cloth is used for making the canvas. The local artists dip the cotton cloth in a mixture of tamarind seeds and water for a few days. The cloth is then taken out and dried in the sun. Now natural gum is applied over it to stick another layer of cotton cloth on it. Thus a thick layer of cotton cloth is formed. This layered cotton is sun-dried and a paste of chalk powder, tamarind, and gum is applied on both sides. The surface of the cloth is then rubbed with two different stones for smoothening and it is again dried. This process gives the cloth a leathery finish and it is now ready to be painted.

2. Natural colors are made using traditional method

The painters prepare and use vegetable and mineral colors for application in the painting. White color is made from conch shells, black is made by burning coconut shells, Hingula is used for red color, Ramaraja for blue, and Haritala for yellow.

3. Colors are filled in

The artist now makes a double-lined border on all four sides of the canvas. The local artists are so expert in painting that they do not draw figures and motifs with pencil but directly draw them with a brush. The paint brushes that the painters use are made of the hair of domestic animals, a bunch of which is tied to the end of a bamboo stick. The figures are now painted with natural colors using the indigenous brushes. The outline is thickened with black color.

4. Painting is given a finishing

Finally, the painting is varnished/glazed to protect it from any damage and to get a glossy shine on the surface.

The making of a Pattachitra is laborious work and therefore, one painting may sometimes take over a month to complete. Due to their classical look, these paintings are admired by people from all over the world. The artistic skills used in Pattachitra are passed down from one generation to another and thus are preserved to date.
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