Raghurajpur- A heritage crafts village in Odisha which was our next destination to cover. The driveway to this Hamlet was scenic due to its blissful setting among tropical trees and grooves of the coconut, palm, along with paddy fields laced with betel vines. The village became the state’s first heritage village for its traditional art form Pattachitra in the year 2000. It was acquired by INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage), who dedicatedly conserve and protect India’s natural and cultural heritage. Apart from being master in Pattachitra, this small town is also the birthplace of the finest Odissi exponent Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.
My car drove on the narrow village road lined with two neat rows of houses, on either side. The village is approximately 1.5 km from Chandanpur. Due to COVID, I was not sure if the village was open, I took a risk. Luckily, along the main road, we met a local who guided us to Anil Kumar Swain’s artisan house.
Raghurajpur is a small town located on the southern banks of river Bhargavi. Upon going into the Raghurajpur village, we parked our car near the village temple and met Anil his studio was nearby the temple. He greeted us cordially, and I guess I was the first tourist of the day and maybe even after the COVID unlock 5.0. I accompanied the artist in his small studio; upon entering, I saw painted balls hanging. These painted balls were betel nuts and coconuts with an image of Lord Jagannath of Puri. The colours and the detailed paintings spellbound me.
Raghurajpur village has over 120 houses decorated with mural paintings, where families raise the artistic legacy of their ancestors. Anil Swain himself has been taking this legacy past six generations, and his father was an award-winning artist in Pattachitra artwork. He was somewhat amused by my interest & question about the art; hence, he detailed the process. Anil explained this art form dates back to 5th BC, and is called Pattachitra- Patta means cloth & Chitra meaning picture. And the subjects of traditional Pattachitra are devoted to Lord Krishna and folk tales from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Anil further explained the procedure begins with the making of Patta, a specific gum is created with ground tamarind seeds (soaked in hot water before grinding) and applied on a washed and dried piece of cloth. This gummy paste is spread over the fabric, then same size and dimensions the material of the are placed over it before the glue dries up. Once the gum dries, a mixture of the tamarind gum mixed with powdered white stone (conch shells used here) is applied on both sides of the cloth. It’s left to dry till it gets hard. Then, it’s polished with a little pebble to give it a smooth leathery finish.
Once the Patta is ready, intricate pictures of various gods, goddesses, and mythological scenes with ornamentation of flowers, trees and animals are then painted. The colours prepared using natural ingredients, and are principally white, red, yellow, blue, green and black. The soot of burning lamps and coconut shells serves for black, white is prepared from powder of conch shell, while the shades and hues of red, yellow, blue and green are obtained from plant leaves, flower petals, fruits, ground stones, etc.
Another famous form of art that Anil introduced to us was Palm Leaf Engraving art, which in the Oriya language is called Tala Pattachitra. The paintings are done on palm leaf strips where a rectangular or square canvas, rows of same-size panels of palm leaves are sewn together lengthwise with a thread passing through the middle of each of them. Then the images are sketched on them, on which Kohl paste, cooked with the soot from burning wick, is rubbed one strip at a time. Afterwards, the water is spread over it to wash off excess colours. Later the palm leaf is wiped dry. Also, these panels can be folded into a compact form. I was fascinated looking at the black-and-white painting, as the time and effort were worthy to notice.
The effort and enthusiasm in describing the art were incredible; there was a sense of pride. Anil stated the art price varies starting as low as Rs 400 & goes up to 5lac. They exhibit at handicraft exhibitions and cultural fairs regularly held across the nation. They also export the articles nationally as well as Internationally. The demand is high as its only not a part of religious worship anymore. Instead, it has slowly gone on to grace the walls of homes, hotels, restaurants, etc.
Hence, I purchased a beautiful Pattachittra with Devi Durga pictured on it which cost me Rs2500. At the same time, my mom bought a Tala Pattachitra which cost Rs 1800. There were some other particulars too, like a painted kettle, pen stand, bottle on which we bargained a little bit. The artisan gifted me few bookmarks and a betel nut painting of Jagannath souvenir. I spent over an hour gaping at his work & listening about the art form. It’s quite addictive.
I thanked Anil and bid him farewell, and then I got a tour of this calm artistic Raghurajpur village. While searching the town, I walked up to the Gotipua Gurukul Academy, where the traditional dance form of Gotipua is taught. The trainees of this dance academy have given performances at numerous cultural events in India and abroad. Due to COVID, the training was closed. Well happy with my newly acquired knowledge about the heritage village & Odissi dance form I took a leave.
The daytime was spent well, exploring the less explored. It was late evening by the time we got to our hotel. The clouds began to paint the sky black, as the rain was about to hit the earth when a thought came to me – “Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit”. And my today’s day was entirely about the essence of the exploration.”
How to Reach
The nearest airport is the Bhubaneshwar airport- Biju Patnaik. Puri is nearly 64km from the airport. Most metros are well connected with Bhubaneshwar airport. So can book a cab or take the buses for Konark as roads are well connected.
Konark does not have any railway station; hence the closest railway station is Bhuwaneshwar and Puri. The Bhubaneswar railway station is 61.7 km from Konark while the one in Puri is 35.3 km away, and both direct train services are available from many cities in India. So can book a cab or take the buses for Konark as roads are well connected.
Several buses run by OTDC connects well Konark to other towns and cities within Odisha. There are private buses & Volvo that ply from Puri & Bhubaneshwar at regular interval.