Krishna and Balarama Leaving for Mathura with Akrura

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Item Code: PL07
Artist: Rabi Behera
Paata Painting on Tussar Silk FabricArtist: Rabi Behera
Dimensions 85.5 inches X 41.5 inches
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100% Made in India
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A great masterpiece in the tradition of Orissa Pata-chitra: a cloth painting, by the known Oriya artist Rabindra Behera, represents one of the most significant events from Krishna’s life which led to the fulfillment of the objective for which he had incarnated in human birth: elimination of Kansa, the Mathura’s demon king. The painting rendered on a cloth-length – a blend of cotton and silk with peach colour as its base, powerfully reveals the Oriya art idiom in the figures’ iconography : large eye-balls with miniaturised black portion, angular faces with protruding chins, pointed noses with arched central part, extra inflated cheeks merging with necks and typical eye-brows, in their anatomy : the tall females with highly ornate style of hair-dressing and robust males with bold figures, in the character of body colour, style of apparels, their colours, prints and mode of wearing, type of ornaments and a highly charged drama revealing in the gestures and body-language of the represented figures. The painting, the classicism manifesting in a folk tradition, is worthy of aestheticizing the ambience even of a large hall if placed on one of its walls.

As goes the story in the Bhagavata Purana and other sources, after all his evil agencies had failed in killing the child Krishna, Kansa made a plot to get him and his brother Balarama killed in his own presence in a direct action. He decided to hold a fourteen days long celebration ‘Dhanuryajna’ : bow-breaking competition, which comprised besides, a number of other feats, main among them being wrestling. Believing that his mighty wrestlers Chanur, Mustaka and others would not only defeat Krishna and Balarama but also kill them he invited them to participate in the competition. Kansa had also posted his mighty elephant demon Kubalyapitha on the main entrance to kill Krishna and Balarama the moment they entered the venue.

Being the king, the invitation from Kansa had an order’s force which could only be complied. Apart, for further ensuring their attendance Kansa ordered Akrura, one of his ministers and a most honoured leader of Vrishnis, the clan to which Krishna and Balarama also belonged, to personally go to Vrindavana and bring Krishna and Balarama with him. Akrura knew Kansa’s design and had sympathy with Krishna and Balarama but could not disobey Kansa knowing that its punishment would be death. From the events in past when Krishna eliminated a number of demons Akrura felt that he was not an ordinary child and wished that he ended Kansa and his cruel rule. With such thoughts he reached Vrindavana and convinced Nanda, Yashoda and others to let Krishna and Balarama go to Mathura with him. A fief holder of Kansa Nanda could not disobey. As for Krishna, he knew that the right moment had arrived for the right action and hence insisted that they would go.

As portrays the painting, riding the chariot that Akrura drove Krishna and Balarama left for Mathura. As the Bhagavata Purana has it, and as portrays this Pata-chitra, no sooner than the news reached inhabitants of Vrindavana : cowherd men, women, young and old, Krishna’s ‘sakhas’, Gopis, Gopas and even the cows, all, desperate as they were, gathered on the road to Mathura, some wailing in deep agony, some obstructing the passage, some crying to halt, some heading to a shrine for praying the deity to stop Krishna, and some lying down on the path preferring to be crushed under the chariot instead of letting it take Krishna and Balarama away from them. There appear divine powers, symbolised in the painting by their flames-like radiating headdresses, and bless Krishna. With anxiety on faces cows rush towards the chariot. A large number of inhabitants, Krishna’s friends in particular, follow Akrura’s chariot. Towards the right end in the register above the bottom a Nanda-like figure seems to falter and a lady, perhaps Yashoda, supports him on her arms. The bottom register portrays all-across from right to left, the cowherd maidens bewailing and falling on the ground. The painting has wondrously captured the mood of the hour.

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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