Pattachitra Art or the palm leaf art is a popular artform with engravings done on a palm leaf. This ancient art form is known for its intricate work, detailing mythological stories, folktales as well as religious narratives from the olden days.
The palm leaves are thin rectangular stripes that are dried for days, before they are ready to be engraved and painted. The rectangular strips are then stitched together to form a bigger canvas depicting a full picture. The complexity of this pattern is the artistic capability of the artist to draw the picture in a coherent non-overlapping form.
The images on the palm leaf are inspired by the mythological tales or folklores and drawn using a black nib to give the final effect of a thin black outline with handpaintings on them.
Often they are very elaborate depicting the phases of stories and are shown in patterns that tell the story from one phase to another. Overlapping palm leaf illustrations are stuck together and a leaf can be opened to show another form of the story. Sometimes, a cloth piece is used to give support to the window leaf so that they are together and tell a story.
The first challenging part in this process is the collection of the palm leaves, which are similar in texture. They are then treated with neem leaf extracts to ensure they are bacteria free and fungus free. They are then left to dry in the sun for days and are finally ready to be engraved. The strips are then bound together using thread and the artist starts to draw on them. They are then handpainted using natural colors to bring in pops of color in between the subdued appearance of the palm leaf drawing.
Since the panels are strips, they can be folded like a fan and opened to reveal a story. Common examples of pattachitra art included Buddha meditating under a Bodhi tree, elephants in a circle, Krishna Leela, Dashavatara – the ten incarnations of Vishnu, the life of Krishna, and Ganesha’s story.
Here is an artisan showing a sample of Pattachitra art:
The result of this etching is a beautiful intricate picture called “Pattachitra”. Cherish artisan crafts, help preserve them!