Towards the New Home
This brilliant ‘pata-chitra’ – cloth-painting, rendered using a wide range of colours on fine Orissa silk in characteristic Orissa idiom of cloth painting, represents the last phase of the marriage ritual : the bridegroom returning home with his bride in full procession and great regalia. The entire paraphernalia – a white stallion-riding princely bridegroom in a diadem, a crowned bride in royal palanquin, umbrella and standard bearers, bands of dancers and musicians and rich costumes even of the palanquin-bearers, suggests that the portrayed scene is a part of a royal wedding of erstwhile days.
Painted in the centre, the bride, seated in a canopied palanquin with a richly adorned top and an elevated finial, comprises the axis and the focal point of the painting. For giving her form greater eminence the artist has abstained from portraying anyone from the procession in direct line with her. The palanquin’s exceptionally colourful top looking like a temple’s slanting dome with a splendid finial along its gorgeous base surmounting it, its dominating large size with a beautifully embellished shaft and two rhythmically curved fish-forms comprising the palanquin’s two side planks, outdo any other form, human or any, even the princely bridegroom, and dominate the entire scenario.
The entire scene is laid against a dark deep background, such as does not easily yield forms but once a form has been discovered against it, its lustre is unique, the same as in this painting. Not merely the human figures, their brilliant costumes and jewellery, the articles they are carrying, the forms of trees, the green earth below or grey clouds in the sky, even the tiny flower-bunches and white beads given the look of floral motifs, lying scattered over the entire field, captivate the eye. The dark background, green earth and grey clouds reveal the velvet’s softness and lustre. Stylised as these are, conceived with identical trunks and their bases, alike tenderly drawn slender branches and stems, and the shape and size of leaves, and though just a few in number, the variously coloured trees effectively define the background and break its monotony.
The marriage procession is on way back. The entire procession has been divided into two files, the frontal, or the main, being led by the bridegroom himself. He is riding a richly ornamented and saddled white stallion having the look of a mythical horse. He is attended by a royal umbrella-bearer. Different from his entire team, the members of which are only partially clad mainly in ‘antariyas’ – lower wears, and a sash over their shoulders, the bridegroom is putting on a full-sleeved skirting breast coat with a rich waist-band, besides the usual ‘antariya’ and sash. Exactly behind him are two palanquin-bearers, the bride seated in the palanquin, followed by two palanquin-bearers on the other side, and behind them are a drummer, trumpet blower and the portable chandelier-carrier. The foremost in the upper register is a fire-worker lighting a cracker. He is followed by a band of dancers and musicians with drums. On the other side of the palanquin there is the auspicious rope-carrier with chandelier-bearer and luggage-carrying porters following him.
This horizontal folio, with every inch of its space covered with elegant forms, gently gesticulated figures conceived with unique anatomical balance and well defined iconography, and a few decorative motifs, reveals exceptional beauty in characteristic Orissa pata-chitra style, an art-tradition still live and widely used in entire Orissa and Midanapur like centres of art in Bengal. Tall figures, strong sharp iconographic features with large eyes and exceptionally pointed nose and chin, and often a highly diversified imagery, rendered using a wide range of bright basic colours, and the cult of embellishing the canvas, especially the border, broadly the features that this painting showcases, are the broad characteristics of Orissa pata-chitra. The painting is contained in a multi-tiered border, the main consisting of floral and vine patterns with linear frames binding it, and the inner-most, a delicate band with leaf, lines and flower-motifs on a marble-white background.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.