Palm leaf painting of Odisha is considered as one of the treasured decorations. It is also known as Talapatrachitras. This art originated when communication in the written form began.
The ancient art of palm leaf writing still can be observed in some Oriyan household or in a temple or at an astrologer’s place. However, the trend to decorate the text with images began which became an art in itself. This art is an ethnic art that is made primarily in Puri and Cuttack.
The Palm Leaf illustrations are mainly of two types, simple engravings or illustrations in pure line on palm leaf and engraving with colour fillings. In these engravings, colours are muted and play a very minor part. Where colours are at all applied, they are just painted either to emphasize the inscriptions, or to fill up blank space.
Religious texts continue to be read out from palm leaf manuscripts rather than from printed books. Horoscopes, too, are traditionally written on palm leaves by professional horoscope makers known as nahakas. Palm leaf was considered so sacred that even after printing presses began operating, important texts continued to be printed on the leaves instead of paper. The printing of New Year cards and wedding invitations on palm leaf is still popular in Odisha.
Significance of Palm Leaf :
Palm leaf is considered very sacred in the state of Odisha. It was so important for the people of this state that even after printing presses started operating here, important texts continued to be printed on the leaves instead of paper. Traditionally, the horoscopes too are written on palm leaves. The printing of wedding invitation card on palm leaf is still common here.
Techniques of Palm Leaf Painting:
The art form consists of inscribing letters and artistic designs on palm-leaf. The palm leaf is cut into standard sizes and held together with two wooden plank covers. A hole is made in the centre. In order to prepare the palm leaf, the unripe leaves of the palm tree are first cut and then semidried. Thereafter, they are buried in swamps for 4-5 days and dried in shade. These are then stitched together accordingly. It so happens that seldom they are stitched after the etching is complete.
Etching is done within lines with the help of an iron pen on leaf strips. A paste is made of bean leaves; charcoal of burnt coconut shells, til oil and turmeric is rubbed on the etching that highlights the figures. There are no colours used as such and whatever is used are in subdued tones. For painting purpose vegetableand mineral colours are used.
Themes of Palm Leaf Painting :
The themes of mythological incidents, Gods and Goddesses figures complete with details of hair style and dress, animals, flowers and trees, Radha and Krishna, God and Goddess are depicted in these paintings. Even natural sceneries are painted. Some of the paintings also include local legends and folklore.
Also read about Pattachitra.