A Painter Creates Magic with Pattachitra Art and Surviving The Oldest and Popular Art Form of Odisha – Sonam Mishra

Looking at a beautiful painting, or staring up at a huge, awe-inspiring sculpture, we’re often left struggling for words. These personal and emotional experiences are hard to express in language. But many people, both artists and non-artists, have managed to put words together that seem to capture this amazing, inexpressible feeling.

Sonam Mishra, 45 years old homemaker from Odisha, the land of Lord Jagannath is synonymous with the ancient art form, Pattachitra. She completed her education from Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) and since school days, she was highly inclined towards the Indian art forms.
The Pattachitra art form has a special place in her heart because of her parents Shri K L Mishra and Smt. Kanak Lata Mishra gave her sacraments to keep their art and culture since childhood. She always wanted to work on it but due to her family responsibilities, she sacrificed her own interest and focused completely towards kids and family.
Earlier she didn’t know the value of the art she did. So, she just used to make paintings and gift it to other people. Then, some of her friends in her group asked her and encouraged her to take this thing forward as a profession not just like a hobby. Without that encouragement and guidance, she wouldn’t have started all this. Later her kids (Daughter Amola and Son Arin) and family also helped her a lot to reach the level she is into now.
Sonam never learnt Pattachitra art form any teacher or institute. She just got basic training on posture drawing for a month and that given and idea to start expressing her emotions. Today, she is a professional Pattachitra artist and doing the work, she loved the most.

One of the Pattachitra art created by Sonam.

Pattachitra evolved from Sanskrit. When broken down into its two parts, Patta means cloth, and Chitra means picture. Hence, Pattachitra is a picture painted on a piece of cloth. This form of art is closely related to the cult of Shri Jagannath and the temple traditions in Puri.
Believed to have originated as early as the 12th century, it is one of the most popular living art forms, and people in Odisha practice it to this day.
For Pattachitra painting, the Chitrakars follow a traditional process of preparing the canvas. A gauze-like fine cotton cloth is coated with white stone powder and gum made out of tamarind seeds. This makes the canvass ready to accept the paint, made of natural colours. These colours are a unique feature of Pattachitra.
The gum of the Kaitha tree is the chief ingredient, used as a base for making different pigments by adding available raw materials. For instance, to get the shade of white, powdered conch shells are used.
A typical Pattachitra design.

The creation of the Pattachitra paintings is a disciplined art form, and the Chitrakars maintain rigidity in their use of colours and patterns, restricting the colours to a single tone.
Limiting themselves within the boundaries of some rules, the Chitrakars come up with such remarkable paintings depicting stark emotional expressions that it is a surprise shading of colours is a taboo. In fact, it is this display of emotions of the figures expressed in the paintings, and the Chitrakars put in their best to bring out the most through their rich colourful motifs.

Every artist dips her brush in her own soul and paints her own nature into her pictures.

A single Pattachitra painting takes at least five to 15 days for Sonam, while some even taking months to complete. The timing to carve one Pattachitra painting depends upon the level of intricacy and size of the paintings. However, it takes years of practice, dedication and skill for an artisan to carve a flawless and magnificent piece.

Lord Krishna with Gopiyaan in one of the Pattachitra Painting by Soman Mishra.

Sonam said, “A lot goes into preserving the original appeal of this art form, and the Chitrakars of Odisha seemed to have mastered that art. What gives Pattachitra an edge over other art forms is the fact that the colours used are 100% natural and are prepared by the chitrakars using ancient methods. While white is made using conch shells, a mineral colour named Hingula is used as a red colour and a stone named Harikala is used for yellow.”
“The creativity of Pattachitra artists is not just limited to canvas and cloth. We celebrate the art form by painting murals on the outer walls of their houses. These paintings depict mythological scenes from the Panchatantra, the Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata”, Sonam added.
Mythological Pattachitra Painting by Sonam Mishra.

Pattachitra creations on bottles. An amazing piece of art by Sonam.

While talking to The Professional Times, Sonam told us, “The main themes of Pattachitra paintings have always been inspired by Lord Jagannath and the Vaishnava sect.”
“Many Pattachitra paintings are amazing representations of stories of Lord Jagannath and Radha-Krishna, the ten incarnations of Vishnu, episodes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and many more. So, one can imagine that much before Amar Chitra Katha, mothers were reading out stories to their children from Pattachitra paintings.”
Pattachitra paintings are known for their floral borders. It is a disciplined form of art with set rules and restrictions. A floral border is a must in Pattachitra paintings, and so is the use of natural colours, restricting them to a single tone. This creates a distinct look and feel that is typical to Pattachitra and cannot be replicated!
Sonam said, “Generally, Pattachitra art is practised by the entire family of chitrakars. While the women prepare the glue, the canvas and help out in filling the borders, the master painter, usually a male, draws the initial sketch and gives the final touches to the painting.”
In Sonam’s case, there was no family background and prior know-how on the paintings. She manages on her own and started her journey alone.
Interestingly, this ancient art form hasn’t suffered a slow death due to lack of enterprise. Chitrakars today send their children out for exposure and education apart from training them in this traditional art form to ensure that they can run their own business rather than depending on middlemen. Though mostly done by men, the art form is now being taken up full time by women and young girls, and Sonam is one of those fine female artists.
A unique and beautiful Ganesha using Pattachitra Art by Sonam Mishra.

With the passage of time, the art of Pattachitra has gone through a commendable transition, and the chitrakars have painted on Tussar Silk and Palm Leaves, and even created Wall Hangings and Showpieces.
However, this kind of innovativeness has never proved to be a hindrance in their customary depiction of figures and the use of colours, which has remained intact throughout generations. This constancy is the key factor that has maintained the effervescence of Pattachitra, backed with the fact that the setting up of some special centres for the art form in Odisha speaks volumes for its popularity.
Sonam said, “The biggest lesson life has taught me is that never waste time waiting for the right moment to start something. I, myself, sometimes think that if I had started doing art earlier, I would have reached a different level than what I am now. So, do what your heart says and never look back.”
She also said, “Honestly speaking I don’t have a particular working time or a work environment. I just do my projects whenever I feel like. I am a moody person. And art is something which won’t happen with perfection if you don’t have the interest to do it.”
A unique piece of Pattachitra Art – Sonam Mishra.

Her favourite part of her current job is to be that she is trying her level best to develop an art form, which is not very much known globally. She would love to spread this art form all over the world.
Contact details of Sonam Mishra
Phone: +91 94392 64864
Email: sonamtrip@gmail.com

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