Raghunath, a resident of Odisha’s Raghurajpur village, is a fourth generation artist engaged in Pattachitra, a cloth-based scroll painting. This art form dates back to the 12th century. In the last 22 years, the artist has created hundreds of these intricate paintings.
What makes Raghunath’s paintings stand out is that he makes organic colours from seashells, flowers and leaves to make sharp, angular and bold lines to depict epics, gods and goddesses.
In fact, he is one of the many artists keeping alive this art in his village, which is a hub of the indigenous art form, with at least one artist involved in the trade in every family.
However, the coronavirus-induced pandemic has severely affected his sales ever since March 2020. So instead of colouring on the cloth, Raghunath has been colouring his house walls for the last few weeks. This, alongside following his daily routine of making organic colours, is his way of assuring himself and his family that things are going to get better once the pandemic ends.
Within the confines of the house, colours explode in a way that looks like you’re part of a festival. But only Raghunath knows the burden of having unsold paintings worth lakhs just lying around.
“Coronavirus has robbed close to 150 families of their livelihoods in our village. We would receive a footfall of 400 people every day before the pandemic, but in the last year, I have not sold even one painting. By colouring the house, our community is keeping spirits high and hoping the world takes notice and buys our paintings,” Raghunath tells The Better India.
Raghurajpur was declared a ‘heritage village’ in 2000 by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). This recognition promoted tourism in the village and assured the artisans that their art is protected. Veteran artists like Raghunath even passed down the art form to their children, knowing it will generate livelihood.
Parul Kumar, who has been working with the village artisans for the past few years, says this is the first time they are struggling to make ends meet.
“Through my NGO Prabhaav, we have created market linkages and helped artisans sell the artwork even during cyclones. But the pandemic has restricted movement so we cannot even organise exhibitions,” says Parul.
She adds, “Raghurajpur village is full of talent, dedication and hard work, and produces several different types of breathtaking artwork including Pattachitra, cow dung toys, grass baskets, pottery, palm leaf painting and shell work.”
Here are some examples of the beautiful artwork done by the villagers:
If you wish to purchase the artwork from these highly talented artists, you can place your order here or call 98112 64284. Delivery is available across the world.
Edited by Divya Sethu