COVID-19 lockdown hits Patachitra artisans of Odisha crafts village hard

Artisans in Raghurajpur near Puri, who make the traditional paintings, have suffered huge losses due to the lockdown

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Thursday 23 April 2020

Around 160 artisan families practising Patachitra, the traditional paintings of Odisha and West Bengal, in the village of Raghrajpur near Puri, have been hit hard by the ongoing lockdown due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Raghurajpur is a heritage crafts village, known for its master Patachitra painters. The village is also the birthplace of one of the finest Odissi exponents, Kelucharan Mohapatra.

Raghurajpur is also home to crafts like palm-leaf engravings, stone and wood carvings and masks.

Around 5-7 members of a family paint patachitras and other craft items.

“The fate of the artisans of our village is now at stake. The Union and state government   recently announced an economic package to cope with COVID-19. But craftspeople are not covered in it,” Biswanath Swain, an artisan of Raghurajpur and the president of Raghurajpur craft village committee, said.

“This age-old occupation has been a source of our livelihood since the time of our ancestors. We are now suffering a lot due to the lockdown,” Swain said while showing stocked Patachitras and other craft items in his house.

Almost all the families of Raghurajpur paint Patachitra in their houses.

“Our village is estimated to have lost at least Rs 50 lakh in the first 20 days of the lockdown. The losses could deepen further, as the state government extended the lockdown period up to 30 April,” Jagannath Mohapatra, another artisan of Raghurajpur, said.

The lockdown has forced many buyers, especially tourists to postpone their visit to Raghurajpur as a result of which, artisans were now in distress, Chandrasekhar Swain another artisan of Raghurajpur, said.

“We suffered huge losses during the cyclone Fani last year and now, the COVID-19 lockdown is pushing us closer to the brink,” he added.

The Patachitra paintings are made over a piece of cloth known as ‘Pata’ or a dried palm leaf, which is first painted with a mixture of chalk and gum.

Over the prepared surface, colourful and intricate pictures of various gods, goddesses, and mythological scenes with ornamentation of flowers, trees and animals are then painted. A painter takes 6-12 hours to paint a Patachitra, that costs Rs 500-5,000.

“This is the only village in India where each family is engaged in one craft or another. After the end of the lockdown period, we hope they will get more customers to sell their craft items,” Ratikanta Patnaik, the tourist officer of Odisha’s tourism department, said.

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