Updated: February 6, 2021 9:04:23 am
After years of doodling and painting, Bhagyasri Sahoo had never imagined her passion for art would bring her nationwide acknowledgement. “I have been recognised because this craft stands out,” says the 27-year-old engineering student who was recently mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme for popularising ‘Pattachitra’ — the traditional cloth-based scroll paintings of Odisha.
Despite being fascinated by art and culture from a very young age, Sahoo, who hails from Rourkela, did not know how to turn her passion into a full-fledged career. The fear of the unknown made her pursue the traditional career path of engineering. “I was never passionate about engineering but everybody around me was getting into it so I followed in their footsteps,” she told the indianexpress.com.
When she was not cramming up engineering theories during college days, Sahoo was engrossed in painting. Pursuing MTech at IGIT Sarang, Dhenkanal, Sahoo often picked up stones on her way to college and used them as canvases for drawing sceneries and portraits of Lord Jagannath. “Whenever I had free time after my classes, I would pick a stone and start painting in it,” she said.
However, the Covid-19 lockdown proved to be a damper and she had to return home. “As stones were not as easily available here, I started looking for alternatives. I picked up everything that could be painted because even getting a chart paper during the lockdown was not easy,” she said. “I painted easily available items at home such as bottles, fabric, plywood and plastic and tried to be as innovative as possible when it came to picking a medium to work with.”
A devotee of Lord Jagannath, Sahoo often painted the deity on stones even though she never explored the traditional craft of ‘Pattachitra’ dedicated to him. Here, the lockdown came as a boon, giving her ample time to master the folk art.
“I had an idea about Pattachitra but never tried it out or thought I could design,” she said. “Patachitra designs are incredibly intricate and time-consuming. To draw on a single bottle, it takes around 7 to 8 hours. I would attend my online classes, which would finish in 2 to 4 hours and then focus on creating Patachitra objects.”
Explaining the significance of the craft, she said, “Ahead of the annual Rath Yatra, when Lord Jagannath is isolated for 14 days, no idol worship is done during that time. Instead, the painted version of the god ‘Pattachitra’ is used for worship.” The tradition is known to have begun in Raghurajpur, a heritage cloth crafts village in Puri. According to Sahoo, almost every individual in the village knows Pattachitra.
The traditional Pattachitra fabric, which is made by applying tamarind paste on top of cotton fabric, is painted with natural colours created from grinding rocks. While Sahoo uses traditional designs, she paints with acrylic colours.
When asked how Pattachitra can sustain amid competition from modern art, Sahoo said, “Digital art obviously takes less time but when it comes to traditional craft, especially Pattachitra, it has its charm and hence stands out. It has its own essence that attracts more attention.” Sahoo, who posts and sells her work online, said her followers often opted for traditional craft over others.
“I have been recognised because this craft stands out and even though there is a lot of competition, it gets noticed amongst others. If I was making something that is usually done, I may not have been noticed. But because it’s Pattachitra, it was recognised,” she said.
Awaiting to complete her MTech in May, Sahoo said the recognition by PM Modi has encouraged her to pursue her passion. “In my house, no one knew painting could be a career. It was not something that was understood. However, getting recognised by PM Modi Ji has given me a push to move forward,” she said. “My family is encouraging me to start my own studio where I can conduct workshops and teach people,” she added.
A commendable exercise to popularise local culture of West Bengal, artwork from Odisha and a noble gesture in Jharkhand…
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 31, 2021
The idea of selling her handiwork online dawned upon Sahoo when she started painting on rocks during her college days. However, it was only last year in February that she started her venture and so far it has garnered a positive response from her followers on her social media page. While ‘Pattachitra’ paintings on stones cost Rs 500, the bottles, depending on their size, may go up to Rs 3000.
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