Heritage Handicrafts Workshop Day 1- Pattachitra

Traditionally paper, textiles and stone have been used to create artworks. So, when a new base material is introduced the most intriguing aspect for me is ‘how did this come about?’

If I were one of the people living in a coastal area surrounded by swaying palm trees whispering constantly in the wind, would I ever be thinking of picking up the one fallen frond and using it as a drawing board?

Students Learning Etching on Palm Leaves

As a designer I look for creativity in any means, questions like these have always fascinated me. Fortunately, ASFDT has always been looking for ways of expanding our creativity skills by giving us modern designing techniques while keeping us in touch with our traditional arts. This time a workshop was organised for us to understand Pattachitra or Palm Leaf Etching.

It was directed by Mr. Narayan Das who himself was from Odisha. The place where Pattachitra originated. He explained the history behind the art and since the beginning of time, before paper was invented, people used to write and draw on palm leaves with stylus made of twigs sharpened with rocks to give the effect of a fine tip pen. Interestingly, all the Hindu books, like The Ramayana and the Mahabharata, The Vedas and The Upanishads and other mythological stories were all written on palm leaves.

Original Pattachitra Works

It is basically done on palm leaves but that is not all. The process of preparing the leaf as a canvas is itself an art. To prepare the palm leaf, the unripe leaves of the palm tree are first cut and semidried. It is then buried in swamps for 4-5 days for seasoning and then dried in shade. These are then stitched or stringed together as per the need. At times they are stitched after the etching is complete. The leaf is then hung for a whole of 2 years before it is used. The colour of the leaf never fades after the process and it never gets contaminated.

Well, the motive of this process is preserving the art for thousands of years. Luckily, we got pieces of the pre processed leaves by the artist itself. Samples of Pattachitra were also distributed for reference. The detailed work done on the leaf did blow my mind. As we aren’t professional Pattachitra artists we were asked to do the designs initially with pencil and then etch it with the special needle or a stylus provided by them.

ASFDT Students’ Works

We were given different designs for borders and the main motif for reference but were allowed to use our imaginations. Etching was a bit of a task but we were assisted with great patience by the artist. Needle used in the process for etching is of the same size of a normal pen or a pencil but heavier and with ends sharp enough to etch the processed leaf. After etching, kohl or ‘kajal’ paste is applied on the etched design to colour it black.

Students applying wet kohl to their works to process the etching

The art seems like it is a piece of cake but it takes a lot of effort and intricate work experience and perfection. For me the workshop really made me understand that creativity has no limit and the amount of focus and patience required for making a simple palm leaf etching. The traditional Indian culture has always amazed me. The more I get to know about it the more curious and fascinating it gets.

Sonali Ojha
3rd Year, Fashion Design

Dona Ajay
2nd Year, Fashion Design
Shalini Mohanty
Assistant Professor, Fashion Design

Graphic Designer:
Sonal Dalvi
2nd Year, Fashion Design

Photographers :
Arshi Chaudhary
3rd Year, Fashion Design
Remya Shais
3rd Year, Fashion Design


One thought on “Heritage Handicrafts Workshop Day 1- Pattachitra”

  1. Well written and it’s so good to see the young generation taking interest and learning our almost forgotten art form…. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

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