Raghurajpur, a small village in Puri district, Orissa is known for its heritage. Inhabited by artisans producing sheer poetry on pieces of treated cloth, dried palm leaf or paper, Raghurajpur has nurtured age old traditional paintings, dance forms and handicraft items including patta paintings, palm leaf engravings, stone carvings, papier mache toys and masks, wood carvings, wooden toys, cowdung toys and tusser paintings.
Situated on the southern bank of river Bhargavi and surrounded by coconut, palm, mango, jackfruit groves and other tropical trees, Raghurajpur has an idyllic setting. Creativity, in the village, flows in abundance and skills manifest into an emotional realisation of art.
The ground level entrepreneurs are closely coordinated by an NGO Parampara, which has structured the inhabitants into 38 groups of 12 to 15 member artisans each, providing them requisite training courses of varying durations from 15 days to 6 months. Wages paid are in the range of Rs 2000 to Rs 5000.
Raghurajpur is known for its special type of paintings called the Patta Chitra. This is a traditional Indian painting form, which is done on cloth. The cloth is first coated with a unique mixture of chalk and gum and left to dry. It is thereafter polished before the actual painting work can begin. The painted cloth, known as ‘patta’ is used as a backdrop to the idol of the deities. Pattas are now used as wall hangings.
In Raghurajpur, there are close to fifty families of patta painters. The chitrakars also make unique, circular playing cards known as ganjifa which are popular in villages all over Orissa. Usually, the lane in which these painters or chitrakaras live is called Chitrakar Sahi. INTACH selected this village to revive the ancient wall paintings of Orissa. The walls of the thatched houses are painted with colourful murals.
Dasabhuja Gotipua Odishi Nrutya Parisad
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Besides producing these beautiful works of art, this village has a living tradition of performing art known as Gotipua, the earlier form of Odissi. A worthy son of Orissa, Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra, an exponent of Odissi dance, was born in this village and had his early trainings in Gotipua tradition here. Now a Gotipua Gurukul, namely Dasabhuja Gotipua Odishi Nrutya Parisad (Dance School) has been established here under the guidance of Guru Maguni Charan Das. (Visit http://www.gotipuadance.org/index.htm for details)
This voluntary institution is situated at Raghurajpur village in residence of Guru Maguni Das. Under the Guru’s tutelage and guidance the parisad has been working for the promotion and popularisation of the unique traditional Gotipua dance for over 30 years. It has already trained 100 Gotipua dancers who have become Odhishi dancers, Gotipua dance Gurus, instructors, etc. in their later life. Gotipuas are young boys of tender age who dress up as girls, sing vaisnab devotional love songs of Radha Krishna and perform Gotipua dance. This institution also provides the boys with formal schooling up to class X. The boys stay with the Guru at his residence for at least six years and complete the course of training.
The dance group of the parisad has performed in almost all big and important folk dance festivals of India and attended workshops abroad. Guru Maguni Das, about 85 years old, is still active in imparting training to the new Gotipua trainees and in keeping the traditions alive and vibrant.
The community of artisans at Ragurajpur has dedicated many generations to art, standing up to hostile challenges, as they tread the path of a cultural entrepreneurship, unique to their community.
(Photos taken from Dhriiti, a Delhi-based NGO)