The Artist Village: The Place Where Art Comes Home

The heritage crafts village, 15 kilometres north of Puri, Raghurajpur is a landmark when it comes to tourism in the state of Odisha. The Pattachitra painters of this village happen to be renowned across the subcontinent of India for their intricate work on cloth-based scrolls about mythology and folklore. What is more interesting is that this art form has been in practice for almost 2 millennia now. Apart from Pattachitra, the artists also excel in other forms of art such as palm leaf engraving, paper and wooden masks, tribal arts, toys, stone and wood carving, and tassar painting.

A little about the village

The main village of Raghurajpur has 2 streets with a total of 120 houses. These houses are adorned with mural paintings and also happen to be the workplace of the Pattachitra artists. The village feels like a museum in the open air. The village is surrounded by a unique blend of vegetation that includes coconut trees, palm trees, and other fruit trees such as mango and jackfruit. The residents of the village worship their local deity Bhuasuni, in addition to multiple other Hindu deities such as Gopinath, Gouranga, Laxminarayan, Radha Mohan, and Raghunath. Needless to say, this village has become a major attraction for domestic as well as foreign tourists. You can reach the village by road if you have booked a car for the journey. You may also travel in an autorickshaw to and from the village.

heritage crafts village

The artists themselves

In addition to the village being this exotic location to be in, the artists too happen to be a highlight of this area. Both men, as well as women artists, are involved in this ancient yet majestic artwork. They will always sport a cheerful smile on their face with which they will welcome you inside their residence. They will not shy away from showing you all their artworks that are for sale. They will tell you the process of the artwork as well as how they carry out their business. Sometimes, they may also tell you the hardships they have to endure as a result of the decline in popularity of their artwork. However, these artists will never force you to purchase anything. In fact, if you leave their place without making any purchase, they will still bid farewell to you the way they greeted you, with a smile. Although, I must say that the talent of these artists is so immense, that you will probably not be able to resist buying a souvenir.

heritage crafts village

Some details about the artworks

The Pattachitra paintings are representative of the culture of Puri as most of them are dedicated to the holy trinity of the Jagannath Temple in Puri. Traditionally, artists used palm leaves for the paintings that are available in plenty in this village. As time went by, the artists evolved their artistic style as well by switching to cloth. In addition to that, these artists are very reliant on nature as the colours they use are completely natural. This includes white colour obtained from seashell powder, black from the soot of oil lamps, and the other primary colours from various kinds of stones such as Khandneel for blue.

heritage crafts village

National recognition

As a result of being the hub of skilled artists as well as keeping several other aspects of Odisha’s culture alive such as Odissi, the village was granted recognition in 2000 as a Heritage Village. Along with that, the government of India has appointed people from institutions such as INTACH, ICCI, NORAD, and the India Foundation for the Arts to aid these artists so that their craft can reach out to more places. These institutions have been working with these artists to strengthen the name of Raghurajpur as the village of craft. In addition to that, they have also provided training to budding artists so that they learn this technique and amalgamate it into different forms of artwork. After being declared a heritage village, the popularity of Raghurajpur has only grown tenfold. Tourists from the country as well as abroad have visited this region quite often. Many visitors also come to this village to actually learn the artwork from the artists.

heritage crafts village

Contemporary situation

In addition to being a crafts village and a heritage village, Raghurajpur is now also a Digital Village as more artisans are now connecting themselves to the virtual world to boost their business. However, this has not impacted the quality of their art even a bit or how these artists lead their lives. It has retained its unique characteristics and is still the unspoiled and pastoral region that it was before the adoption of technology. In my opinion, Raghurajpur is a national treasure that needs to be safeguarded so that its artistic probity remains intact. The artists have to be made more independent so that they can reach out to their customers directly and conduct business without any hassle while at the same time retaining their culture.

Image Courtesy: Artist India, Outlook India, Culture Magazine, Best of India, Tour Asia, Pinterest. 

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