A perfect amalgamation of mythology- folklore- Hindu deities- vibrant colors- floral border on a cloth, make it what is called as- PATTACHITRA. It is a traditional style of Oriya paintings showcasing Hindu gods, their life events, mythological stories, and other religious scenarios.

This is undoubtedly, an eye-catching art beholding the beauty of symmetry and composition for centuries. Being closely associated with classical purans, pattachitra has captured the imagination of artists and art lovers alike. This art is flourished and evolved under the supreme dedication of Hindu sect for Lord shri Jagannath.

pattachitra of jagannath

It is an ancient hand-painted artform of Odisha which is now globally acknowledged and among the finest folk heritage of India. Lets find out more about it…..


The term PATTACHITRA comes from the ancient Sanskrit language which means:


So, Pattachitra is simply cloth-based scroll paintings depicting Hindu mythology and religion with intricate craftsmanship and precision.


It is the oldest painting style of Odisha with its origin dating back to 12th century B.C., however, as these paintings are done on the cloth, the lesser durability makes it hard to find the oldest records of Pattachitra. A tentative approach can be made as the present style of Pattachitra paintings are associated with temples, their origin does not probably go beyond the establishment of the present shrine of Shri Jagannath at Puri.

These paintings were originally said to be used as substitutes for worship on days when the temple doors were shut for the ‘ritual bath’ of the deity.

Interestingly, the ancient murals of Odisha, dating back to 5th century BC, resemble pattachitra in some forms and can be found near Puri, Konark and Bhubaneshwar. The best remains can be found in the village Raghurajpur, near Puri.


The original purpose of Pattachitra was its association with temples and deities and to serve as souvenirs for pilgrims to Puri, as well as other temples in Odisha. These paintings became part of religious celebration and as a way of praising Hindu gods through their life-events and elaborate mythological depiction.

The paintings are inspired by  lord shri Jagannath and Vaishnava sect in particular. Some popular themes includes:

  • Thia Badhia – depiction of the temple of Lord Jagannath who was an incarnation of Lord Krishna .
  • Krishna Lila – enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child;
  • Panchamukhi – depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity.
  • Dasabatara Patti – the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, based on the ‘Gita Govinda
  • Balabhadra and Subhadra
  • Yamapati and yatripatas (sketches of puri temple)
  • The individual paintings of gods and goddesses 
  • Episodes from Ramayan and Mahabharat.

Even today, Pattachitra depicts the mythology in the same way as they were depicted centuries ago. They are intact, uninfluenced and preserves the traditional art of narrating stories in its own unique way.


Each element of painting narrates the story in a very distinctive way showcasing gods and goddesses in association with particular RASA (emotion) and GUNA (nature). These rasa and guna in pattachitra are often associated with certain colors like :

  • Haasya rasa– Humor in white
  • Roudra rasa– Rage in red
  • Adhbhuta rasa– Wonder in yellow

Or Guna like :

In the traditional style of Pattachitra, the facial features of the characters show elongated beak like noses, a prominent chin and extended eyes. The distinguishing elements are the facial features, hairstyles and clothing. Pattachitra is a disciplined form of art known for symmetry. A floral border is a must and distinguished feature in Pattachitra paintings. It is often made with single tone natural color creating a distinct look and feel that is typical to Pattachitra and cannot be replicated!


From centuries the painters, known as chitrakars and using herbal-natural colors in their artwork. Even today the tradition is carried on with the use of vegetable and mineral colors without going for factory-made poster colors. The colors are extracted from:

  • RED – ‘Hingula’ or Geru or red oxide, a mineral color,
  • WHITE – Obtained from  conch-shells
  • INDIGO/BLUE – Indigo plant
  • BLACK – burning of coconut shells
  • YELLOW – ‘Haritala’, king of stone ingredients for yellow
  • GREEN – Plant Leaves

The colors used in the Pattachitra are primarily bright and bold colors, limited to red, yellow, indigo, black and white. The colors are mostly designated to a particular deity or element in the painting like Krishna is always painted in blue and Gopis in light pink, purple or brown colors.

The brushes that are used by these ‘Chitrakaras’ are also indigenous and are made of hair of domestic animals or from the root of the keya plant for finer and regular brushes respectively.



The art of pattachitra usually goes in hierarchy and runs in family from generations. The patta painters or chitrakars are involved in making paintings involving their family members. Like, woman members prepare the glue, the canvas and apply colors what we call the fill-in, and give the final lacquer coating. Whereas, usually the male members, draws the initial line and gives the final finishing.

Preparing canvas is the first step of making Pattachitra.

Firstly, the canvas is prepared by coating the cloth with a mixture of chalk or white khadi patthar and gum made from Tentuli or tamarind seeds soaked in water for 3-4 days. This mix is then applied on the cloth and sun dried. The mixture of gum and chalk gives the cloth a leathery finish in order to achieve a finished look to the vegetable, earth and stone colors. Synthetic glue is not used as it changes the natural color of pigment over time.

Then, the outlines are drawn with brush on small strips of cotton cloth. The chitrakars do not use pencils but simply draw directly with the brush either in light red or yellow. The colors are filled in. The patta is given a lacquer coating to protect it from weather and to provide glossiness. This process of glazing or varnishing is quite interesting. The painting is held over a fireplace so that the back of the painting is exposed to heat. On the surface of the painting fine lacquer is applied.


Pattachitra are among the few age-old arts which are still unadulterated and carried on in the same way as it was centuries ago. The paintings carry immense historical and religious significance to India. It displays the very traditions of Hinduism, their beliefs and ideology with great excellence.

However, with the passage of time the art of Pattachitra has gone through a considerable transition that is from cloth to other canvases. These days this ancient art is used elaborately in vivid ways and their presence is not limited to temples.

They are now became the part of Home Decor products and are available in forms of wall hangings, wall art, door hangings, bags, serve wares, table tops, home furnishing items like bed spreads and in apparels as pattachitra sarees, dupattas, and even as pattachitra jewelry.

The Chitrakars now uses different silks to replicate the conventional elements as well the aroma of folklores onto a single piece of apparel. The art on the apparels looks visually appealing narrating the tales from Lord Krishna Raas Leela, floral motifs, geometric shapes and much more.

It may take several months to draw out a beautiful pattachitra saree as is it is a work of immense patience and skill. Bright hues such as red, pink, purple, yellow, green and white are used to adorn classic saris narrating epic tales in a unique refreshing manner.


Raghurajpur, a small village on the banks of river Bhargavi near Puri is a classic place featuring pattachitra since ancient times. Atleast one member in each family from this heritage village is involved in arts.

Similar art is found drawn on the walls of famous Sun temple of Konark.

Pattachitra paintings can even take months to complete. Its the work of great patience and skill.

The colors are 100% natural and are associated with particular emotion in the paintings. Pattachitra paintings are known for their floral borders.

Regular workshops are organized by government and other individuals in order to maintain and restore the ancient art of pattachitra.

Raghunath Mohapatra is among the most renowned pattachitra artist awarded with India’s highest honours.

Presently pattachitra is not limited to canvas and cloth. Now the art form is celebrated as murals on the outer walls of Oriya houses.

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