Raghurajpur: A Locale Where Poverty Bows Down In front of Artistic Ability

A few kilometers from the hustle-bustle of the Puri beaches and you’ll land in a place where nothing seems extraordinary.

Tiny village houses dotting both sides of the road. Cuckoo-ing cocks crossing the streets lined up in a queue. A temple standing right in the middle of nowhere and you won’t know even if there is anything special about the place. Peep into any of the houses and your sight would be almost blinded by the variety of colors and the artistry. When all you can lay your eyes upon are fuchsia, bright turquoise, dark browns, and fluorescent oranges and violets, you know you are in Raghurajpur.
Turn your eyes around and you would see etchings and sketches of gods and goddesses. The mythological tales engulfing you as if you are a part of it. Bright coloured birds, figurines of Odissi dancers, and woven tales everywhere. The equally bright coloured walls of the houses would inevitably make you happy.

Raghurajpur is a heritage art and craft village around 10 km away from Puri and 55 km from the state capital. It is known for the residents’ finesse in Pattachitra, a type of artistry that dates to the 5th century BC. This form of art came into existence from the Gotipua dance which is a precursor of the Odissi dance of today. From Puri, you have to take the Bhubaneshwar road, near Chandanpur, on NH-316, and upon reaching Chandanpur bazaar, take a right turn and drive around 1.5km to reach Raghurajpur.

As far as your eyes wander you would see, groves of coconut, palm, jackfruit and mango trees lined up. The 100 houses of the village are mostly decorated with murals and Patta paintings on the outer and inner walls. You would be greeted with a warm welcome by the artisans to their living room cum studio where they practice their Pattachitra craft (Patta refers to cloth and Chitra means the painting), besides many other practices throughout the village, including traditional masks, stone idols, paper mache, sculptures, wooden toys. This is heaven for art lovers, a place where you feel you have stepped into a visual gallery. Every house is like a museum here and every person irrespective of their age is an artist. Roam around in the village a bit, and you’ll see temples dedicated not only to Bhuasuni (local deity) but also gods and goddesses like Gopinath, Laxminarayan, Gouranga, and Radha Mohan.

The artisans keep weaving tales as they continue showing their creations. From them, I learn, that the deities in Puri Jagannath temple goes on a vacation every year for fifteen days, and the idols are replaced with Pattachitra that portrays the deities. You would see, paintings of Krishna in his different avatars – with gopinis, with Radhika, or with his mother being a playful kid.

The colours they use are organic colours and vegetable dyes, turmeric for yellow and orange, hibiscus for shades of red, different types of leaves for shades of green. For black, they use naturally made kohl. Eventually, a lacquer coating is added to the painting to make it long-lasting. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has developed Raghurajpur as a heritage village.

What is often overshadowed is the fact that Raghurajpur has a dance tradition too. The legendary Odissi dancer Kelucharan Mahapatra was born here and before getting into Odissi he practiced Gotipua here.

Pottering around Raghurajpur, and visiting as many homes as possible, I tried to take in the colours, the textures, and the motifs with me. As I turn to take my leave from the place with souvenirs filling my bag, I feel the figurines and the paintings beam a smile on me. I have been to many art villages or galleries in my life but the personal touch of Raghurajpur would always be special to me.


About the author:

A workaholic startup founder and a crazy bookworm, who loves to paint the whole day long. This lady runs on coffee and, she absolutely loves the mountains and rainy days.

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