Timeless Impressions- Talapattachitra
Emotions myriad, how should I express?
Through a pen, a hue of colors, or just an etch,
What I feel and what I reveal is my art,
What others see and what others decipher is their perception of it,
When the above two concur, it glorifies the essence of mortality,
And the art becomes a timeless impression.
Taalapattachitra ( dried palm leaf engraving), as is popularly known, is one such art form that has always intrigued me. The intricacies and fine nuances of the engravings stimulate a wave of emotions that effortlessly flow in my psyche and take me to a different place altogether. India is a cultural treasure rich in art, music, dance, and so on. This treasure is brimmed to the tip with an unbridled existence of various folk art forms belonging to different regions. One such art form is the taalapattachitra famous for its engravings of gods, goddesses, mythological scenes from the epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and even glimpses of everyday lives of the tribes belonging to the Raghurajpur village in Odisha. It was sometime back in the year 2014 that I got a chance to visit this village and get exposed to the beautiful art form of taalapattachitra. It is a very old popular tradition to write on dried leaves, and preserve for eras together. This art form follows the same principle. Just like the famous manuscripts one hears of in the national archives and oldest libraries in the country, taalapattachitra is also one of them.
About the art:- It has been a tradition to respect nature and utilize its blessings in ways one can ever think of. The tribes of Odisha have been doing the same- staying raw and natural. They dry palm leaves, treat them with turmeric solution to lengthen their shelf life, cut these leaves in rectangular shapes, strew these strips in the form of scrolls, and with the help of a pointed iron rod engrave beautiful images, stories, patterns, and motifs on them. These etchings are then filled with lamp black with the help of a cotton swab to give a depth to the engravings. Sometimes, cutouts are made at same places to give added stencil effects. What comes out, in the end, is a beautiful depiction of one’s efforts to express something non-verbally, yet powerfully.
The Ganesha one can see in the picture above is in a dancing pose, full of life and exhuming immense joy. The borders are engraved with flowers and motifs that are a reflection of nature. The flow in the lines, curves, and contours reveals the dynamism of life, the beauty of the unstoppable wheel of time, and the continuity of life outside the picture.
For me, art has always been a way to not only unravel the deeper layers of my existence but also to connect with the essence of the existence of others, and fathom the boundless nature in ways I never thought I could. Nothing can be better to learn the art forms of the tribes of our country who live closest to nature and connect with it through art. I have learned a number of folk art forms like the worli art, tanjore paintings, madhubani paintings, taalpattachitra, pahari paintings, to name a few. It has been a relishing experience in itself. What makes these folk art forms beautiful is their simplicity, the use of naturally available colors, base, and equipment. It’s a way to understand life just the way it should be- unbiased, and with minimal subjectivity.
I would like to appeal to the youngsters to go out, explore the real India, and its’ beautiful art forms, and preserve this precious heritage for eternity. Connect with the nature, and you will gradually understand life in a more beautiful manner.
(The talapattachitra carving of Dancing Ganesha is done by me).
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