Dancing through the Corona Pandemic

The world has slowed down perhaps for the first time in history due to the corona pandemic. Humanity is at high stress out of fear. Almost a large part of the world is a lockdown. At this critical stage, art comes out as a healer comforting our mind and soul, if not body.

French national Mahina Khanum made the most of the lockdown by shooting a film to create awareness about the corona. The uniqueness about the film is the use of Odissi dance form to convey the message. She employed her training as an Odissi dancer to communicate with the global audience. Arts speak a universal language and her mudras of Odissi, an ancient dance form sure speaks to many. Her abhinaya communicates at any level, the mudras, the hand gestures do the talking and the expressive eyes darting back and forth, emoting, appealing, beseeching, begging all to stay indoors win over the most reluctant and perhaps may also inspire a few to join her at her studio in Paris post-corona.


The young dancer has won the hearts of many with her dance film. The Indian Minister Dharmendra Pradhan Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel has shared her video. Appreciations come manifold and she says it with great humility, “Humbled to receive so much appreciation from around the world! And I’m moved by the interest that our video triggers for Odissi dance. I’m finding hope in this feeling of deep worldwide connection, with all of us wishing together for a better tomorrow.”

Suitably intrigued I managed to speak with her. Mahina graciously spent time in answering questions about her dance journey, her passion for popularising Odissi in France, her partnering with her supportive husband and her film on the corona.

Her journey as a dancer.

I am an Odissi dancer based in Paris, France. I was first trained in Ballet from the age of 3 and later got the chance to meet an amazing dancer, the Odissi Guru, Shri Shankar Behera who used to tour Europe when I was a teenager. I was deeply touched by his performance and it changed my life. I started learning from him and took to performing and teaching in France on a regular basis. I am convinced that Odissi dance has a lot to offer to the international audience. And that is what I focus on with my husband, Avishai Leger-Tanger, a digital artist.

Why Odissi in particular?

I love all dance forms and I am fascinated by many kinds of body language. But some magic happened with Odissi! Odissi came to me through a performance for which my mother had offered me a ticket. And I was awestruck. I decided to learn this divine dance form. My training started and I was lucky to be exposed to other dance styles. I occasionally get the opportunity to learn or work with different dancers and teachers, be it in Indian dance forms or Western styles. All of them are amazingly interesting but I always come back to Odissi.

Odissi has a very ancient background but is still very relevant today. It is an artistic and spiritual practice. And I am very moved by its aesthetics.

Please tell us something about your guru.

I started learning from Guru Shankar Behera and later visited him regularly in Mumbai. It was his performance that had converted me to Odissi. When I turned 18, I was awarded an excellence scholarship from ICCR in India and the French government to pursue my training with Guru Madhavi Mudgal in GandharvaMahavidyalaya (Delhi).

How did people react to your dancing? Please tell us something about your dance school. Do students understand the connection with the sacred? How do you break it down for them?

Odissi dance was barely present in France when I started teaching and performing here. People here don’t have the cultural background to understand and appreciate it.

We are slowly working on creating an audience. I have about 80 students training on a weekly basis and I am getting demand for performances from big companies and luxury brands such as Guerlain.

Most of the students are adults who have never seen a live performance of Odissi and have no dance background. I have worked on a progressive method to allow everybody to gradually access Odissi as it is a very complex and demanding art form. Over the years, I have worked on methods to let everybody get a feel of this dance, whatever their background. With beginners, we would, for example, isolate one aspect of the body language, let’s say the hands, and practice simple exercises and rhythmic patterns, breathing, slowly becoming more conscious and aware. This is a wonderful way to learn to focus at a time where the global pace of working has become crazy.

Many of them slowly walk their way into its aesthetics and become real rasikas and lovers of the style. With time they get to enjoy its artistic and spiritual meaning. I think that this is what touches the heart of many here in France. Perhaps the appeal lies in the possibility that through dance one can know oneself better and can get connected to the sacred, whatever be its form.

What in Odissi resonates with you?

I am very moved by its lyrical grace. Odissi dance, through its history, resonates with many other art forms like painting, sculptures, poetry and music. While watching an Odissi performance, I get the feel of total art. Getting into this artistic world opens many possibilities. And I feel Odissi dance has a lot to offer to the global audience.

That is why, in collaboration with my husband Avishai Leger Tanger who is a digital artist, we have started working on different ways to present it to the unacquainted audience. We use new technologies but remain true to the traditional form. We’re very happy that our recent projects have been catching a lot of interest and attention, including:

– Odissi dance + computer-animated old painting:

– Odissi dance + virtual reality:

– Odissi + light-painting photography: https://www.facebook.com/pg/mahinakhanum/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2417653541586402

What does Jayadeva say to you?

Jayadeva tells me to be patient; the spiritual path is a long one and as Radha, everybody can misunderstand, lose temper, feel lost and hopeless.

He also tells me to be expansive, to be open to the beauty that surrounds me. I’m may not be living in Vrindavan but living close to nature is truly amazing, it transports me to Vrindavan.

And of course, he tells me about love, which is such a complex and powerful feeling, coloured with the navarasas.

What was your motivation behind employing Odissi to promote awareness about Corona?

The announcement of the lockdown had left us in shock. We had been applying barrier gestures for some time in France, and since the beginning, I was a little bit disturbed by this expression, “barrier gestures”. In dance, a gesture is meant to convey feelings (towards the audience), not to create distance. In fact, it is the very meaning of what we call, in Indian classical dance, “abhinaya”, “gesture toward [the audience]”. So this thought took root in my mind.

We didn’t really think twice about this short video. Being locked down, we had the urge to keep on dancing and at the same time wanted to say something positive. We adapted traditional hand gestures and used the tone of a traditional character, the Sakhi, the friend, who is always present in the Odissi repertoire based on Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda.

And the music for the video came from extremely talented Vijay Tambe ji, the composer and flutist, Ramprasad Gannavarapu (mardala) and Aparna Deodhar (sitar). This was composed a few weeks before in Mumbai and we felt that it was a strong coincidence. We had beautiful music which we decided to use as a score one of these it this video.

This is the story behind the video that has struck a chord with many because of its aesthetics and visual appeal but more profoundly because Odissi the dance form has a sacred connection with the temple – the abode of gods, a sacredness that appeals to all in the times when no light seems to be visible at the end of the tunnel. The worldwide acceptance of Indian greeting of Namaskar (bowing before the light within you), Yoga (means of uniting the individual spirit with the Universal Spirit), Ayurveda (rightful living through aahaar), Pranayama (mindful breathing) and PM Modi’s initiative to thank the health workers by clapping has become a Global rallying point. To this list, we can add the power of dance, the ancient Indian dance form that reminds that us of our deep connections. It resonates with all because it is rooted in Vasudhaiva Kutumabakam, we are all one and we have to look after everyone, like a family!

Picture and video courtesy Ms Mahina Khanum

Author – Aparna Pande Mishra

She can be contacted at aparna.anusha.28@gmail.com

Romance in Murals – Expression of Love at Chitrasala in Bundi

‘That slender one should send a letter

Couched in artistic language

Written on a Kettaki leaf, scratched by Kasturi and wrapped by a silken thread

Having a symbol of her breasts smeared with sandal paste

With her name inscribed on upper portion’



‘Forgetful of worldly attachments

Lost in his thoughts

Suffering from fever caused by his memory

She heaves deep sighs, neglects her food, walks or rest

Without bothering to listen to her friends’



‘High palaces and blossoming lotuses

Do not give the pleasure any more

She throws the ornaments being placed on her body by her friends

Nor is she delighted by acts of entertainment

Having achieved an objective she is restless

Is desirous of engaging in such pursuits

Which she could not in the presence of her lover’


The 18th-century Chitrasala of Bundi palace in Southeastern Rajasthan is a chock-a-block of romantic depictions of Shringar Rasa in the form of large murals. Most of Chitrasala murals are inspired by Rasikapriya, a love poem written by Keshavdash of the 16th century.


Bundi takes its name from a narrow valley Bandu – Ka – Nal (Bandu was a chieftain of the Meena Tribe and Nal means the narrow ways). Rao Deva conquered this terrain in 1342 CE and renamed as Hadoti. The Aravali Mountains surrounding Bundi present the most picturesque view with its flowing rivers and lush green forest, in the whole of Rajasthan.

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Rasikapriya is portrayed as the vehicle of emotion. The description of the countryside, cities, forests, hermitages, rivers, gardens, tanks, sunrise, moonrise and the seasons are beautifully illustrated by the artists of Chitrasala. There are seven colours, namely, white, black, yellow, red, grey, blue and mixed tones that have been primarily used in Chitrasala murals.

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Keshavadeva defines a nayaka or hero as a man who is young, expert in the art of love, emotional, proud, selfless, generous, handsome, rich and reframed in taste and culture. A nayika is a heroine whose very sight fills a male’s heart with shringar rasa. There are four categories of naikyas according to Rasikapriya.





Padmini – Padmini is a beautiful nayika, soft as lotus, intelligent, cheerful, clean and soft-skinned, free from anger and has a golden complexion. She loves clean and beautiful cloths.

Travel Tips

Bundi is located in southeastern Rajasthan at a distance of 50 km from Kota, the largest city of the region. Bundi can be reached from Kota by regular bus services and shared vehicles. While at Bundi one can also explore the surrounding hill terrains rich in prehistoric rock art. There are many stay options in Bundi ranging from budget homestays to high end. Keep three days for your Bundi trip if you love a more relaxed slow trip.




Chitrani – Chitrani is adorned with diverse beauties. She is fond of dancing and singing. She is fond of perfumes and her lover’s portraits.

Sankini – Sankini means short-tempered and clever. She is a luxuriant growth of hair, likes red garments and pinches hard when excited. She is shameless and unhesitant.

Hastini – She has a thick figure, a fat face and large feet. Her lower lip and eyebrows are thick and her voice is rough.

Another draw of Chitrasala is the Ragini murals. Ragas are primary sources of all musical renderings in India. Each Raga or Ragini has an emotional situation based on different facets of love, either in union or separation. Ragas are ascribed to Shiva and his consort Parvati and Raginis are ascribed to Brahma and his consort Saraswati.











The important features of Ragini murals at Chitrasala are strong eyes, pointed chin, projected nose, round face, Jahangir style turban, narrow patka with geometrical designs, transparent chakadar jama, attractive black pompoms and shading under the armpits. Ragini Todi, Ragini Megha Mallar, and Ragini Asvari are important examples of this sect.

The depiction of zenana or women’s harem is yet the attraction of Chitrasala murals. Zenanas are large palaces built for women. These palaces are divided into different apartments allotted to the royal women or queens, less important ladies who hold various managerial positions and attendants. In these wings, only the kings and princes are allowed. Some common zenana scenes that appear in Chitarasala are princes playing chaupar, palace gardens, palace ponds, palace terraces, the celebration of Teez festival and women listening to music, feeding the fish and enjoying wine and smoking huqqua.






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The love murals of Chitrasala are a treat to eyes. They follow shringar at all its spell and intensity – when the passion strikes a woman after seeing her lover she sweats and is thrilled with romance and such is the intensity of her involvement she does not see even her friend standing nearby.  They integrate with the landscape of Bundi and the cycle of seasons. There are joy and delight everywhere.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Murals of Bijapur – Splendours of Deccani Odyssey

Contemporary to Akbar, there lived a Sultan at Bijapur, in Deccan, who was a dreamer, with an almost maniacal sensitivity to art. He was Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the patron of the greatest artwork in Deccan. Just as Akbar transformed Mughal art, Ibrahim elevated Bijapur paintings to a level of dramatic power and technical sophistication that had no parallels in contemporary schools.

Ibrahim’s patronized miniatures are difficult to spot for a common traveller of art to Bijapur, but what amuse you is the traces of murals that adorn the interior walls of a few of Bijapur monuments. Even though mostly eroded, the remaining impressions still indulge their curious onlookers. 


The carved mihrab in Jama Masjid is the first one to be noticed and also best preserved. It has retained traces of fantastic paintwork on crisply modelled gesso.







The spandrels above the arch are filled with leafy tendrils exploding into fanciful blue and purple flowers against a rich golden background. The other attractions are Trompe-l’œil (the French term for ‘deceive the eye’– an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions) depiction of books in low relief, painted in rich gold and brown to suggest embossed leather bindings. What further catches your eyes in the mihrab is the treatment of faceted part domes, where calligraphic alams, some on chains are surrounded by the elegant leafy tendrils. 

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These magnificent compositions combine the formal character of Central Asian pictorial tradition and abundant naturalism of Deccani tradition. 

The other building that has preserved Adil Shahi wall murals at Bijapur is Ashar Mahal, the grand courtly structure of the 17th century.

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In one of the upper chambers, there are traces of murals depicting courtly women, now badly damaged and difficult to photograph because of strict restriction and lack of natural light. The chamber next to it, however, appears magical with the depiction of Persian mystical pottery drawn by Chinese or Middle Eastern artists. Harmoniously proportioned these vases are composed of arabesque patterns similar to the 15th century Timurid designs. 

Travel Tips:

Bijapur is a medium-sized city located in North Karnataka near Maharashtra border in the heart of Deccan. The city is well connected both by road and railway. However, the nearest airport is either in Pune or Hyderabad (both 8 hours away). Hubbali is yet another nearby airport which is well connected by both rail and road service. The city has plenty of stay options starting from budget to luxury. Famous for Medieval architecture, especially Indo-Islamic including the second-highest dome and a triumph of Deccani architecture, Bijapur is an art lover’s paradise. While at Bijapur also visit Kumtagi waterworks (25 km from the city). One should keep a minimum of three days for a true appreciation of Bijapur’s water heritage.








Paintings are also seen in the walls and vaults of one of the pavilions at the pleasure resort in Kumtagi, 25 km away from Bijapur. Though badly damaged, the remaining traces show a depiction of courtly pastimes, such as Polo match complete with horses and players, wrestling, drinking and musical performance. One can also find Europeans appearing in formal dress.  










The wall murals of Bijapur are hardly talked about and perhaps it is the only Internet source documenting these valuable artistic assets of South Asia of yore. 

The Adil Shahis were Shia Muslims having a strong bond with their roots in Persia. Yet they had also inherited the local tradition. These paintings reflect in a sense a true amalgamation of ideas, the spirit of the idea of India, an essential subject to ponder at this juncture of the disturbance being faced in the country.   

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com    





Leepakshi – Incomplete Grandeur

A two-hour drive from Bengaluru on Hyderabad Highway drops you at a mysterious land surrounded by a cluster of dramatic hills and a vast semi-arid plateau of Andhra’s Anantapur District at the vicinity of the dried up Pennar River. A legend goes: this was where the blind Jatayu fell, wounded after a futile battle against Ravana, who was carrying away Sita. When Sri Ram reached the place, he saw the bird and said compassionately, “Le Pakshi” – “rise, bird”, in Telugu.



Keeping aside the legend, the tiny town of Leepakshi is however known for its 16th century Veerabhadra Temple, a grandeur in Vijayanagar art and architecture, and one of the finest monuments in the whole of South India. The temple is built on a tortoise shaped low hill called Kuruma Shaila.



Veerabhadra, the fierce god created in his rage after the Daksha Yagna and the immolation of Parvati is the main deity here.

The construction of the temple of Veerabhadra is attributed to the initiative of two contemporary brothers, namely Veeranna and Virupanna at the provincial Vijayanagar Court of Penukonda. It is said that Virupanna was the officer in charge of the state treasury of the provincial government at Penukonda, administered by a governor appointed by Achyuta Deva Raya (1529 – 1547 CE), the Vijayanagar Emperor from Hampi.

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The Ruins of Penukonda – The Provincial Capital of Vijayanagar Empire

Penukonda or the Ghanagiri (as described in Vijayanagar inscriptions) was an important and influential province of the Vijayanagar Empire, and the rulers of Vijayanagar and Penukonda were also related through matrimonial alliances. The cult of Veerabhadra was quite popular during this period throughout the Vijayanagar Empire. He was the mascot, the war-cry and a source of inspiration for the Vijayanagar army. It is believed that both the brothers had a special affinity towards Lord Veerabhadra and had been inspired to build a temple at Leepakshi, which had been strongly linked with Puranic tradition.

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The Veerabhadra Temple complex is a wonderful example of Vijayanagar architecture. Filled with gopuras, vimanas and sprawling courtyards the temple’s major architectural features are the ranga mantapa and ardha mantapa. Carved with an exquisite array of images of dancers, musicians and the Puranic deities, like those of Anantha Sayana, Dattatreya, Brahma, Tumburu, Narada and Rambha, the temple is however incomplete. The sprawling Kalyana – Mantapa meant as a sacred space for celebrating the wedding of Shiva with his beloved Girija has splendid and carved massive pillars, but there is no roof over them.








A major attraction of the temple is the ceiling murals depicting 14 aspects of Shiva, flanked by rishis whose gazes direct a viewer’s eyes to subsequent depictions from the killing of demon Andaka to Ardhanairswara, a figure whose body is composed of Shiva on the right side and Parvati on the left. There are also manifestations of Shiva as Kirata (boar hunter), Shiva’s wedding with Girija, scenes of Krishna’s childhood, and the legend Manu – Neeti – Cholan who disposed justice even to animals. There is also a scene of Viranna and Virupanna worshipping Shiva and Parvati in the company of other courtiers.

Travel Tips

Leepkshi is located at a distance of 120 km from Bengaluru off Hyderabad Highway in Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh. The nearest town is Hindupur, which is 15 km away. It takes about 2 and half hours to reach Lepakshi from Bengaluru. There are both buses as well as rail connectivity to Hindupur from Lepakshi. If you are travelling by bus or train hire an auto from Hindupur to Lepakshi. Lepakshi can be covered in a day trip. Penukonda is further north about 50 km from Lepakshi.














The murals of Leepakshi manifest the contemporary life in Vijayanagar Court and society. Full of vitality with protruding eyes, angular postures, grace and delightful movement these provide primary pieces of evidence to appreciate the grandeur of cosmopolitan Vijajayanagar. The costumes of men and women, colour embroidered sarees, jewellery, hairstyle, tall headgears (kulavi) are among the finest in Indian mural tradition. The wealthy traders and officials in the 16th-century court are seen dressed in Persian styles are depicted in Leepakshi murals. According to Brigitte Khan Majlis, an expert on Leepakshi murals, the textiles show a wide spectrum of patterns, some bearing a close similarity to extant cotton textiles of Kalamkari tradition, produced along the east coast for export to Indonesia in 17th and 18th centuries.

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Veerabhadra Temple’s yet another major attraction is a mammoth Ganesha – hewn in stone and leaning against a rock. Perpendicular to it is a massive Naga with three coils and seven hoods. It forms a sheltering canopy over a black granite Shiva lingam.





The first sculpture at Leepkashi is, however, you will encounter is a spectacular Nandi of 27 feet length and 15 feet height, reputedly India’s biggest monolithic Nandi.



Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Kanchipuram Murals – An Artistic Sojourn

Every year millions of tourists, art connoisseurs and heritage enthusiasts visit Ajanta, the mural capital of India located in Sahyadri Hills of Maharashtra. The mural heritage of Ajanta was however short-lived, thanks to the fall of Vakatakas and their patronage.

The features that were laid in Ajanta was however found in full bloom in the Pallava Court at Kanchipuram, 1000 km away from the Vakataka capital. Unfortunately very little of Pallava murals have survived today. Following the Pallavas, it was the Vijayanagar and then Nayaka rulers who also made Kanchi as a canvas for their mural sojourn.


Pallava – Image Courtesy: Vijay Sundararaman Iyer


Vijayanagar – Image Courtesy: Vijay Sundararaman Iyer



Pallavas who made Kanchipuram as their capital were great patrons of art. Mahendra Verman I, the founder of the dynasty was credited for the introduction of rock-cut architecture in Tamil Nadu in 7th Century CE. Because of his artistic talent, he was titled variously as Vichitra Chitta, Mattavilasa, Chaitrahari or Chitrakarapuli. However, none of Mahendra’s murals has survived at Kanchi today. What has remained are from the period of Rajasimha, who ruled towards the end of the 7th century CE.

Also, Read here:

Ajanta – India’s First Renaissance


Mahendra Verman I at Mahabalipuram

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Kailashnath Temple Kanchipuram

Rajasimha’s murals have also mostly gone; however, a close observation helps us to find traces of lines and colours on small cells in the pradakshina path.

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In cell 9 there are remains of fragments of upper and lower arms of Shiva and in cell 11, one finds the beautiful face of Shiva depicted in Pallava style with only a part of the nose, cheek, kandala and yognopavita. In cell 23, there are remnants of a painting of Shiva and cell no 34 there remain traces of a mahapurusha (kirata, shoulder and thigh are left). However, the most striking remains are that of a Samakanda mural in red on the back wall of cell 41. The colours are gone, but the line of composition of the seated Shiva and Parvati and a lovely attendant of Parvati are an indication of the excellence of the artist’s ability. Depicting Samakanda was a favourite Pallava theme for murals as well as sculptures. The curve of the arms and legs, the excellent proportion of the limbs, details such as tussle, the folds of the garments and the ornamentation are surpassed only by the very adorable baby Skanda. Parvati’s figure is full of feminine grace.

Kanchipuram is located at a distance of 72 km from Chennai off Bangalore Highway. The city is also well connected by rail. Located on the banks of Vegavathi River, Kanchipuram has a rich history and heritage. It was the administrative capital of Pallavas in the 7th century. It was later ruled by Cholas and Vijayanagar rulers. Kanchipuram was a great centre of education in historical time. Of the 108 holy temples, the best -known are  Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple, and Kumarakottam Temple. The city is well-known for its hand-woven saree industry known as Kanchipuram Silk. While at Ekambaeswarar Temple relish Kanchipuram Idli which is offered to temple as prasadam every morning. 






Images Courtesy: Vijay Sundararaman Iyer

One other painting which is in a fair state of preservation is that of Kinnara and Kinnari, a half human and a half bird couple who are celestial musicians.

The tradition of Pallava murals had carried forward the Ajanta tradition. They display the same grace of line and movement. The artists were masters of brushwork and figure drawings. The paintings were executed on a smoothly prepared surface in the fresco style. The colours used are black, red, white, yell, blue and green.

The Pallava murals of Kanchipuram are known for their fully open and wide eyes in accordance with South Indian ideals which demands wide, beautiful eyes as they are most striking features in the face. Faces are round and fuller.

The Pallava tradition of murals was revived much later in the 16th century during the Vijayanagar Period at the time of Achyutadevaraya who had commissioned murals on the walls and ceilings of Vardarajaperumal temple at Kanchipuram.


Vardarajaperumal Temple

In Andal Unjal Mandapa, the ceiling is carved with stories of Krishna from the Bhagavata Purana and Harivamsa, stories of Kaliyamardana, Vishnu with his consorts and so on.




Other common themes include the Vijayanagar crest of the boar and dagger, vidyadhara ridden of palanquins composed of feminine figures of Rati and Manmatha.






Vijayanagar Murals – Images Courtesy: Vijay Sundararaman Iyer

Sadly the Vijayanagar murals are also badly survived. The only prominent colours left are red, yellow, green and black. Yet the leftover outlines depicts prominent figures, strong undulated lines and animated movement.

Vijayanagar rulers were succeeded by Nayakas in the 17th century, who had commissioned Jain themes of various bala lilas of Rishabadeva, the first Tirthankara, of Vardaman, of Krishna, of Neminatha and so on. These paintings are illustrated as long elaborate panels in the ceiling of the Jain Temple at Kanchi. The panels are supplemented with the depiction of purnakumbha, flowers along with dancers and musicians.












The mural heritage of Kanchi may not be the richest in India but what makes it interesting is the evolution of styles and multiplicity of forms and themes that developed at different periods of history under the patronage of different dynasties. But sadly most of it gone with ravage of time.

Author – Jitu Mishra. He is grateful to archaeologists Vijay Sundararaman Iyer and Aarti Iyer for their knowledge sharing and accompanies at Kanchi in February 2018. Jitu can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Osakothi Rituals in Ganjam – An Anthropological Journey

A story goes – On the way to heaven, the five Pandava brothers had rested on the veranda of a Brahmin’s house, where no woman was ever blessed with the birth of a child. Arjuna came forward to intervene. He erected a Kothi and a Chammundia (a temporary shelter) with the help of arrows. Through this act, Yama, the God of Death was barricaded out.  At night a messenger of Yama appeared but had to leave unsuccessful. Consequently, an agreement was made with Yama – whoever observes Osa will bear sons, and all children will remain alive.

The news spread in no time throughout Avanti. Shriya Chandaluni (a woman sweeper named Shriya) heard it while she was sweeping the street near the palace. One of the queens expressed her displeasure because Shriya to whom she saw first in the morning was untouchable.  Equally, Shriya also thought it was inauspicious to have seen the face of the queen because she was antakudi, a barren woman.

The queen wanted to take revenge and reported the matter to the king. The king took away the five sons of Shriya and had them killed in the forest. Shriya went to the forest in search of her sons. Seeing them dead, she cried aloud. At that time Shiva and Parvati were wandering in the wilderness. They heard Shriya’s cry. While comforting her they asked her to observe Osa by erecting a Chammundia, a temporary shelter. She replied that she could only do it when all her sons are alive. Shiva requested her to turn her head away. He sprinkled water on the dead bodies and her sons came back to life. They joined their mother and also started worshipping themselves. The king watched them performing the ritual and when performed Osakothi himself, each of his 99 queens bore sons.




According to yet another story, Kalidasa, the poet had once lived in Bauri Sahi (street of untouchables). There he had started a Kothisala. First, he made the appearance of Shiva Tandav, after that the image of Parvati, then Mahisamardhini Durga and Kali. Mangala followed them, then Ganesha and Kartikeya, and finally Panchu Pandava.




How did Kalidasa go to Bauri Sahi? There was a king, who had addicted to women. Because of this weakness, he could not give time to rule properly. Everyone suffered. Then all his subjects assembled together and proposed him to create a mural of his favourite queen and keep it near him. The king liked the idea and invited the court painter to draw the mural. He got it done. All appreciated the work but Kalidasa said ‘no’. The king sought the answer. In reply, Kalidasa said there was a kalajai, a black mole on the left thigh of the queen, which is not in the figure. The king got annoyed with the answer and started doubting about the secret relationship between Kalidasa and his wife. Immediately he removed the poet.  With no other choice, the poet took refuge at Bauri Sahi where he started the Kothisala.

Both stories confirm us that the Osakothi tradition in Ganjam stems from the untouchable groups, the upper caste joining later.




For cultural anthropologists and archaeologists, Osakothi rituals are of great interest as one draws a series of parallels between the evolution of early belief systems against their social and cultural settings and their continuity till modern time.  Keeping this in mind recently I had ventured into the heartland of Ganjam around Digapahandi to experience and document the Osakothi rituals.

Also, Read Here:

Travel through Digapahandi – Ganjifa’s Last Bastion

Travel Tips:

Though Osakothi rituals are celebrated in most part of Ganjam we visited villages around Digapahandi and for this story, we had zeroed on Khallingi Village, about 15 km from Digapahandi via Patapur. The ritual is carried out during Durga Puja time every year. You can also visit villages around Dharkote, Purussotampur, Aska and Buguda towns to witness the festival. There is an excellent road network in the district and you will find villagers are very welcoming. However, for a comfortable stay, you can either chose Berhampur, the largest city in the region or Gopalpur-on-Sea. Taptapani Hotspring is the other nearby attraction which is also the gateway to the tribal heartland of Southern Odisha. For food, you have small restaurants on highways and towns. 

Osakothi shrines are temporary structures but now have been made permanent. But one should not confuse them with temples. They have strange characters showing a fusion of tribal and folk beliefs. In middle ages, local zamindars and feudal kings appropriated the land and villages of aboriginal chiefs of Kondh and Saura tribes. To hegemonize their subjects, goddesses from tribal realms were accepted as Esta Devis, family goddesses of the royal households. Some of the local Thakuranis acquired great prominence and their shrines were equated with ancient Shakta temples of Hind pantheons.







Osakothi shrines are a link between the tribal deities and beliefs and mainstream Hinduism. The Thakurani (goddess) is represented as a ghata (pot) and depicted in the murals along with various other deities. The season mostly lasts for seven days around Dussehara (from Ashtami to Kumara Purnima). Traditionally an Osakothi shrine is a simple structure, but nowadays because of increased wealth, one finds permanent structures. The basic requirements are a wall for the murals with a vedi platform or a ledge for keeping the ritual objects, a canopy and an open space for the performances and gathering.









The murals of the osakothi shrines are meant to house tetiskoti devatas (thirty-three times of ten million deities). At least 10 to 20 images and a maximum of hundred gods, goddesses, heroes of epics and legends are depicted on walls as attendants of the relatives of the divinities. The murals thus represent a microcosm in a reduced scale.  In an Osakothi mural, the entire family of the goddess does appear with sons, daughters and vehicles with a full entourage, regalia and pomp. The Thakurani is then considered to be Adimata, the creation mother. The wall on which murals are drawn is divided into components, symbolizing chambers and houses of various gods and goddesses forming the great family.

Mangala is often depicted in an Osakothi shrine as the dominating deity. She is seen sitting in cross-legged padmasana with four arms, her body is coloured yellow and she wears red or pink sari and a blouse. The goddess carries five pots, one on her head on top of her crown and four in her hands.

Shiva is the only male deity to appear in Osakothi paintings. He even occupies the central position. He is shown as Nataraj. However, Shiva is not invoked in osakothi ritual. There are stories that explain why Shiva is illustrated as a central figure in Osakothi murals. One such story is – there was a widow who would often get possessed by Thakurani. Once Shiva appeared in another form and beat the woman mercilessly saying that the goddess should return to her home and prepare dinner for her family instead of moving around. From then on Shiva is not invoked when the Thakurani appears.

In Osakothi paintings Durga appears with four or more arms, grasping a trident, sword and other weapons in her hands. She is generally represented as a beautiful and forceful woman. In osakothi, Kali is the central figure of the Shakti Cult. She is depicted as a black skinned naked goddess dancing violently on prostrate Shiva. Her powerful many armed images with swinging weapons of all shorts are the most prominent icon in Osakothi murals.

There are also icons of Chinnamasta, Parvati or Gauri, Saraswati, Ganga and Yamuna and a number of Thakurani goddesses such as Khambeswari, Manikeswari, Bankeswari, Tara Tarini, Budhi Thakurani, Bhagawati, Urandawati, Hingula, Chamundi, Maharikala, and so on. There are also minor legendary characters such as Hadi Hadiani, Dhoba Dhobini, Gauda Gaudani, Kandha Kandhuni, Keula Keaulani, Barahalila, Batapanthei, Chhoti Neli and Tapoi.

The Osakothi rituals consist of erecting and painting a shrine (now days erecting is not practised), performing puja, offering prayers, taking out processions, dancing and entertainment. The aim of the ritual is to obtain a boy child. The participants are lower caste inhabitants of a village or local group. Women act as observers. Paintings are drawn by Dandasi Harijan artists. There is a strong belief that if they don’t follow Osakothi rituals, Thakurani may interfere destroying the life and property of people. An interesting story goes: in one of the villages the tradition was stopped for three consecutive years. Thakurani became angry. She said: ‘I will make the village Kala Khamba, black poled (i.e. she will burn houses). I will bring smallpox and phatua, a cow disease’. The Thakurani came to a village and demanded that she performs Osakothi. First, the villagers said: ‘We have no money’. The Thakurani replied: ‘Money is my problem. I shall go with you from village to village to collect money’.















For all 8 nights in a row, the participants in the ritual congregate at the shrine to invoke various gods and goddesses. The ritual begins after the sunset. The Jani (priest) worships the ghata pots representing the goddess Mangala and the image in the murals. He lights a lamp and burns incense after offering ukhuda bhoga (fried parched rice mixed with molasses) to the deities. The dhana koila instrument is then played by the Bayani musician or the singer. The Gayani singer begins the first avahani (invocation song), the audience joins the chorus, called pali. Slowly everyone gets involved. Some of the participants become active personifications of the divine and semi-divine characters and called Devata. One such male Devata may suddenly move forward and backwards and fall in trance called Devata Lagiva. Usually, four or five me men enter into this state simultaneously. The Jani and his companions try to calm the Devata if his movements become too frenzied. They pour water from a lota into his mouth and touch his head with a Mandara (China Rose) flower was taken from Mangala pot.










The ritual ends with Koti Ujeiva on the evening of the Purnima (full moon) or the day following it. The pots are taken to the pond in a procession.















Today, however, Osakothi is in the declining state through the rituals are still on. In our exploration, we were also surprised to see the replacement of murals with flex prints depicting mythological stories in southern style. The beliefs are no more intense as the lower castes are more empowered now. Because of technology and information flow the superstitious beliefs are also fading. It is a million dollar question – for an anthropologist like me it is a loss but one has to accept that we all need to progress and develop scientific tempers and get away from such archaic practices. However, rituals like Osakothi also play as symbols of identity and community bonding at the grassroots of Indian society in the era of market force and globalization.


Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com


Illustrating Ramayana Katha – Biranchi Narayan Temple at Buguda

Raja Srikar Bhanja of Ghumsar! History might have forgotten him, but his contribution to art and culture even today stuns visitors and art scholars alike.

A distant relative of Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja, Srikar came to rule in 1790. However, after ruling 9 years in 1799 he renounced to lead the life of an ascetic devotee of Lord Sri Rama in South India. In 1819, the British unseated his son and successor Sri Dhanajaya Bhanja and reinstalled him again as the king of Ghumsar (today’s Bhanjanagar). While being in the heartlands of Southern India Srikar had got exposed to a diverse range of mural heritage in different courts including the Maratha wooden buildings.

Once started a fresh reign, Srikara took initiatives to experiment with his yearning for his beloved Ghumsar. A major project was the construction of a wooden and stone temple for Lord Biranchi Narayan taken from his capital to Buguda, 25 km away and the project site. The building was painted by murals said to be so fine that they looked as if the divine artisan Viswakarma himself has made them. The year of its construction was 1820.


Travel Tips

Biranchi Narayan Temple is widely celebrated as the Wooden Konark of Odisha. A legend goes: Once a cowherd boy while tending cattle stuck his feet against a metal plate at the foothill. Consequently, the villagers dug up the portion and unearthed the life-size image of Biranchi Narayan.

The temple is built in the form of a chariot driven by seven horses. Apart from murals, the temple is noted for its remarkable wood carvings on the ceilings of the mandapa and the jambs of the entrance door.

Buguda is surrounded by a number of other interesting spots of tourist interest, the most noted being Buddhakhol, 3 km away. Amidst forests and streams, there is a cluster of 5 Hindu temples at the top of the hill, dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the past, the area was part of a major Buddhist civilisation which can be testified with the findings of a number of Buddhist images and caves where Buddhist monks once lived to meditate during rainy seasons.

Buguda can be approached from Berhampur (70 km), South Odisha’s largest city, Gopalpur – on –Sea (75 km) and NH-16 at Khalikote (70 km). A ride to Buguda from these cities/towns is going to be an experience of a lifetime, especially if you are travelling in monsoon and winter. On your way, you would discover rich ethnic life of Southern Odisha along with lush green paddy fields, hills and unspoiled forest.

Buguda does not have staying options. However, in Berhampur and Gopalpur one may find a number of hotels/resorts of various ranges. We recommend avoiding Berhampur which is highly chaotic and messy. Gopalpur – on – Sea is a better option where one can easily spend two days relaxing in one of the finest beaches on the Bay of Bengal.


In Odisha, Puri was the major centre for Odishan chitrakaras, whose work was connected with the Jagannath Temple.


Depiction of Schematic Map of Puri Srikshetra in Biranchi Narayan Temple


Also, Read Here:

Monks, Monasteries and Murals – A Photo Story on Puri’s Two Legendary Mathas

Some of them moved to various sassana (Brahmin villages) villages around Puri to work for their Brahmin patrons. The widely celebrated Raghurajpur and Dandashahi villages are attached to two sassanas near Puri.

Also, Read Here:

Raghurajpur – An Open Air Museum

During the 18th century, secondary Jagannath temples were built in feudatory (gadajat) states of Odisha. Chitrakaras were sent out to provide replacement images and perform other services to temples. As a result of these migrations, several distinctive styles of paintings evolved, including Dakshini style of Ganjam.

Also, Read Here:

Travel through Digapahandi – Ganjifa’s Last Bastion

Some of these chitrakaras had settled at nearby villages, such as Mathura and Balipadara. Today both villages are active centres of art and craft. According to local people, chitrakaras from either of these two villages had painted the murals of Biranchi Narayan Temple where more than half of the repertoire represents Ramayana Katha. Today their conditions have deteriorated to a large extent. However, the remnants still shine thanks to the burnished surface of the wall over which the murals are drawn.






Painted according to classical canons, the Buguda murals have an exceptional aspect, the subdued earthy palate. In addition to yellow and russet ochre (appear in older pattachitras of Puri) a greyish green is prominent. Blue occurs very rarely and in a duller form then the pattachitras. Another unusual feature is the unusual amount of white background in the narrative panels. This was perhaps to make simply the story clear. Another feature of the panel is that they are not executed in sequential order and appear like a jigsaw puzzle.   The first three sections of wall organized in neat registers and balanced as a whole with repeated elements of design, but all later panels move in haphazard manners, at times from right to left, at times from left to right and at times from top to bottom.  It is believed that the irregularity meant for depicting varieties and for not making the overall organizations too predictable and monotonous.

















Four major images of the rear of the temple abandon the sequence of each episode. Each panel presents a single event drawn from the Vana Parva (forest section) of the Ramayana, following Rama’s exile. In each, the principals are seated on top of a hill, which is filled with rural details. Most heads are tilted upward, providing a deliberate and heroic cast to their actions. The occasionally drawn down turned positions suggest pensiveness, modesty or subservience. Characters are further simplified with a single curve defining the leg muscle and knee joint, or the leonine male torsos, their shoulders turned almost frontally.

Depicting landscape is a major feature of Buguda paintings. Hills in the four iconic panels are defined by overlapping lobes, their edges outlined in contrasting hue and edges with curved cross-hatching primarily to suggest volume. These multi-coloured lobes are cunningly populated with varied plants and creatures including monkeys and bears.




The pattern used for landscape depiction is also carried by noted pattachitra artist Bijay Parida about whom we have done two stories earlier. One of his creations depicting the Vana Parba episode is highly influenced by Buguda murals. It is exhibited at ODIART Purvasha Museum.Untitled-2

Also, Read Here:

Celebrating Seasons in Patachitra – a Tribute to an Artist’s Dream and Passion

The murals of Buguda is the first major attempt of professional paintings in Odisha’s pictorial tradition and till today play as a role model for a host of pattachitra artists including Bijaya Parida. The Buguda artists had devised their own forms with a sense of innovation and experiment in which narrative concerns were part of the picture.

Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Papier Mache – The Story of Odia Mukha and its Master Artisan

Imagine Odisha or in that matter, rural India before the economy was made open in the 1990s and penetration of cheap Chinese goods in the rural market. Imagine rural Odisha before the flooding of television channels’ cheap entertainment shows such as Sas Bahu and the spread of much-hyped social media and free mobile phone entertainment.

Festivals and rituals thrived in Odisha’s rural landscape. Janmashtami, Dussehara, Ramleela and a score of other festivals were celebrated with great pomp and festivity along with folk operas and dramas illustrating mythological stories of Hinduism in general and of Odisha in particular.


Folk performance in Rural Odisha

Also, Read Here:

Dola Jatra – The other Rath Yatra

A major attraction of these folk mythological dramas were the characters wearing papier-mache masks, Hanuman, Hiryana Kashyapa, Narasimha, Vishnu, Devi, Shiva and so on. Patronized by the feudal kings of Gadajat Odisha, papier mache artisans thrived in several rural pockets. But sadly as the globalization has taken a stroll the tradition has dwindled to a large extent. These days the folk drams are still a big hit among local communities, but the mukhas have been replaced by bright fluorescent coloured silk cloths and body painting.

No one knows when papier-mache made its way to Odisha, but for generations, the craft has been thriving as mukha chitra in the rural heartland.  Now the mukhas that have survived from past have made their ways to museums, both in India and overseas.

Kalabhoomi Odisha Craft Museum, Bhubaneswar
Kalabhoomi Odisha Craft Museum, Bhubaneswar
Kalabhoomi Odisha Craft Museum, Bhubaneswar
Kalabhoomi Odisha Craft Museum, Bhubaneswar
Kalabhoomi Odisha Craft Museum, Bhubaneswar

And their miniature versions have found new patrons at Raghurajpur and Puri for home decorations.




Also, Read Here:

Raghurajpur – An Open Air Museum

Papier mache according to Wikipedia is a composite material consisting of paper pieces of pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch or wallpaper paste. Literally, it is also referred to as craft of ‘chewed paper’, ‘pulped paper’ or ‘mashed paper’.

Though I have been acquainted and bought a few miniature mukhas from Raghurajpur in the past my understanding was limited until when I came across a splendid papier mache chariot depicting Lord Krishna as the charioteer carrying Arjuna to the battlefield of Kurukshetra at ODIART Museum in Lake Chilika. It was one of the highest standards of any craft I have come across. The chariot is designed in the Odia Ratha style and influenced by traditional patachitra art. I was simply floored and could sense a strong connection between the object and its creator through divinity and passion.  Later I came to know about Sri Purushottam Mahapatra, its creator who lives in Kapiliswara area of Old Bhubaneswar.















Travel Tips

ODIART Purvasha Museum is located at Barkul on Lake Chilika at a distance 100 km from Bhubaneswar and 70 km from Berhampur, the largest city in Southern Odisha. The museum is strategically located in a major tourism hub on the National Highway that connects Kolkata with Chennai and closes to the rail route connecting Eastern India with the rest of Southern and Western India. The nearest airport is in Bhubaneswar, which is a 2-hour drive from the museum. 

The museum has limited accommodation facility at the moment (only 4 rooms) for visitors to stay, but the nearby Barkul has varying staying options in a property managed by Odisha Tourism Development Corporation. 

Besides the museum and a scenic boat ride in Lake Chilika, a traveller can also explore the rustic rural life of fisherfolk and farmers and the historic temple of Dakshya Prajapati at nearby Banapur. Chilika is also a heaven for seafood lovers. With prior intimation, the museum can arrange delicious ethnic lunch at its premises.

Contact Details

Odiart Centre, Barakul, Balugaon,
Khordha, Odisha-752030
Contact No-9439869009,  9853242244
Email : odiartchilika@gmail.com 

Purushottam Mahapatra lives in the address below at Bhubaneswar. 

Purushottam Mahapatra

Sassana Padia, Kapileswara

Old Town, Bhubaneswar 751002

Phone: +91 9937881342, +91 7008039025

Purushottam Ji is Odisha’s no one papier mache artist. But his journey has never been simple. In the film below he shares his journey during the formative period of his career.

Even though he is in the 60s he is strong and promising. With a simple phone call, he gave me time and introduced the process which is carried out by him; his wife and son, however, offer helping hands.





What keeps him busy on a daily basis is creating a range of colourful birds, which are in high market demand and each sold for 250/300 INR. When you see them together you are almost drawn to a bird sanctuary where the chorus of birds has come to a sudden pause.








Then he showed me an unfinished peacock of life-size. What a stunning beauty even though the painting was yet to be done.


The next was an unfinished bowl depicting Krishna’s themes.





His creations, however, had many more surprises; one such was a puppet, entirely his own visualization.

While being drawn time and again to his unique creations I also witnessed the process.

First, the desired object is created in clay, which is then kept for drying for a couple of days. Once dried thoroughly it becomes a solid core. The core is then wrapped and glued with a number of paper strips.  Then the core is removed. The glued paper pieces are now ready for the desired alternation. In cases of birds, wings and tails are added. Following it, the object in making is coated with a paste of chalk powder. The last step is painting and then your papier mache craft is ready.













Apart from the Mahabharata chariot, Purushottam Ji has also created recently a life-size sculpture of Krishna’s Giri Govardhana lifting. Some of his masks are also displayed in Bhubaneswar’s International Airport.


I spent nearly three hours at his studio. But one thing that disturbed me was the lack of zeal and passion among young generation artisans, who want quick monetary success with little effort. So it is difficult to predict about the future of papier-mache craft after Purushottam Ji. The production will be there but not sure about the standard and creativity.


Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Celebrating Seasons through Pattachitra

From the dawn of civilization, our artists have drawn inspiration from changing seasons to paint, sculpt and write their dreams. Here is the story of Bijay Parida, a celebrated Pattachitra artist from Bhubaneswar and his visualisation depicting seasons of Odisha.

‘Once upon a time…an exiled Yaksha in a distant land

Pinning for his beloved…urges to carry a message to her’

A yaksha could change its form at will, take to the sky and fly where his fancy takes him, become invisible and indulge in a variety of supernatural capers. But the yaksha of Kalidasa’s Meghadootam had temporarily lost all these power. He had been banished for a year from Alkapuri, his divine abode beyond the sky touching peaks of the Himalayas by Kubera, the god of wealth.

Wandering southwards the yaksha had reached Ramagiri, south of Vindhyan-Satpura Hills. He was remembering of his young wife whom he had left behind in Alkapuri. They had been married just a few months. Standing on the top of Ramgiri, he looked up the overcast sky and envied the heavy, moisture-laden clouds that were slowly making their way northwards. He imagined they were going to his home in Alka, as they were moving in that direction. He wished he could join them, indeed race them, and fly home.

A Yaksha Couple Illustrated in Cave 17 at Ajanta

More than 1500 years later the vivid imagination of poet Kalidasa on the celebration of love with monsoon has found a fresh perspective through the fancy of Chitrakara Shri Bijaya Parida, an internationally acclaimed patachitra and pothi chitra artist from Bhubaneswar.

National Awardee Artist Bijaya Parida

Travel Tips

Bijaya Parida


31//1936, Road No 2, Gangotree Nagar, Sisupalgarh

Bhubaneswar 751 002

Ph +91-9437132688 

Bhubaneswar is well connected by air, train and road. The city has a large number of hotels of various categories and restaurants. Widely celebrated as the temple city of India there are a number of options for a heritage enthusiast in Bhubaneswar, such as Ekamra Walks in the temple corridor, Monks, Caves Kings Walks at Khandagiri and Udayagiri Hills and Museum Walks at Kala Bhoomi on every weekend. Bijay Babu’s residence cum workshop is situated in the close vicinity of the temple corridors and near the ancient capital of Kalinga during Ashokan Era in 3rd century BCE, Sisupalgarh.

In 2015 when I visited Raghurajpur a few of the striking murals that fascinated me most was a large collage depicting 6 seasons (Greeshma, Varsha, Sharada, Hemanta, Sita, and Vasanta) and the divine Odia life that revolve around them in the land of Lord Jagannath.








The murals appeared stunning with minute perfection and detailing in a riot of colours. And what could have been the best central theme than illustrating Radha and Krishna’s epic love story that has been always eternal for billions of Hindus across the world?







I did not know at that time about its creator and came to know recently when I met Bijaya Babu at his residence in Gangotri Nagar in Ekamra Kshetra, Bhubaneswar. Bijaya Babu is an artist par excellence. He has also been a great innovator of ideas both in patachitra and pothi chitra (palm leaf). In one of my recent posts, I had highlighted one of his unique creations, a talapatra pothi pankha (fan) exhibited at ODIART Purvasha Museum in Chilika.

Also, Read Here:

Etching Krishna and his Childhood

In the early 2000s, INTACH had assigned Shri Anupam Saha to illustrate the walls of all the traditional houses at Raghurajpur in patachitra style. Bijaya Babu’s help was sought as Saha also had wanted social themes which he found difficult among the local artists to visualize. Most of the murals illustrated were conventional religious themes of Odisha. Bijaya Babu earlier had seen Bundi paintings in Rajasthan and had appreciated the depiction of rain and monsoon in the backdrop while projecting Krishna and his leela in the front.  That triggered his mind to conceptualize six seasons in patachitra style using Radha and Krishna as the central characters.

A Bundi Mural from Rajasthan

Once the idea got established Bijaya Babu started replicating it in tassar silk for his patrons.  I was fortunate to see and touch one. However, the colour scheme used here is a mix of black and faded brown –red distinctive from the conventional colours used in patachitra painting.  The painting had six equally divided units arranged in two rows, each unit depicting a season.


The first unit is the summer season. Gopis are seen making turmeric and sandal paste which would be applied to Radha and Krishna to relive them from the scorching heat.  At the lower frame sakhies are seen bathing Krishna and also merrymaking in the cool water of Yamuna.




The next frame depicts monsoon, the season of restlessness both for humans, and trees and animals. But monsoon is also the season of romance when couples often find excuses to ease off under floating dark sky and against trembling trees and gushing water.  Radha and Krishna are delighted to be in rain experiencing all the ongoing events silently surrounding them. There is yet another couple too, equally indulged seeking divine union.


Sharada is the next season which has a clear sky. Sharad Purnima, the full moon night of Ashwina is celebrated as Kumar Purnima in Odisha. It is also the brightest full moon night of the year. While everyone seems to be in the celebration mood, Radha and Krishna are indulged in their private space under the moonlit sky.



Hemanta follows Sharada, the season before winter. With pleasant weather and abundance of life, the coast of Odisha goes festive celebrating boita bandana as the reminder of past maritime heritage in the dawn of Kartik Purnima day. Krishna and Radha are depicted in a romantic mood, while Krishna offering a pan to his beloved.





Winter follows the Hemanta season. With long nights and short days, while the folks are seen warming their bodies around a bonfire, Radha and Krishna are seen in their private space comforting each other in a cosy chamber against the intense cold outside.





The last frame is the depiction of Vasanta, the king of all seasons. Here we see the celebration of Holi with colours and water. Krishna is seen playing Holi with his gopis and the target is his beloved Radha.



The conceptualization of the theme is epic reflecting the true spirit of India where the life is being celebrated with great pomp and festivity in a divine spirit for thousands of years. Change in seasons brings us new meanings to life and fresh purposes to live with celebration.

Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Etching Krishna and his Childhood

Tall and short, the tree grows in abundance on the coast of Odisha, both in a cluster and in solitary.  It is one of the palm trees, in Odia called Tala Gachha. The tree may not have cultural or religious significance unlike the sacred banyan tree but its leaves are the most sought after material for creative experimentation to illustrate Hindu gods, goddesses and their leela.



From childhood, I have been well acquainted with the art and also with talapatra pothis or palm leaf manuscripts as it is referred to in English. Talapatra pothis are traditionally used to write horoscopes and its history can be traced back to the beginning of Odisha’s history.

Depiction of Horoscope Writing in a Patachitra

However, in historical records, we have only from the 17th century now mostly preserved in the State Museum at Bhubaneswar. This may be due to the humid tropical weather of Odisha we have lost the earlier ones.

A historical Pothi Chitra from 18th/19th-century exhibit at Odisha State Museum, Bhubaneswar
Specialized tools known as lekhani – Exhibit at Kalabhoomi, Bhubaneswar


Among the contemporary talapatra pothi chitra one of the most stunning and richly illustrated that I have come across is a pankha (hand fan) exhibit at ODIART Purvasha Museum in Chilika. Narrating the story of Lord Krishna and his leela in a multitude of colours the talapathra pothi chitra pankha is a treat to eyes. The creator of the pankha is noted patachitra artist Bijaya Parida.

Travel Tips

ODIART Purvasha Museum is located at Barkul on Lake Chilika at a distance 100 km from Bhubaneswar and 70 km from Berhampur, the largest city in Southern Odisha. The museum is strategically located in a major tourism hub on the National Highway that connects Kolkata with Chennai and closes to the rail route connecting Eastern India with the rest of Southern and Western India. The nearest airport is in Bhubaneswar, which is a 2-hour drive from the museum.

The museum has limited accommodation facility at the moment (only 4 rooms) for visitors to stay, but the nearby Barkul has varying staying options in a property managed by Odisha Tourism Development Corporation.

Besides the museum and a scenic boat ride in Lake Chilika, a traveller can also explore the rustic rural life of fisherfolk and farmers and the historic temple of Dakshya Prajapati at nearby Banapur. Chilika is also a heaven for seafood lovers. With prior intimation, the museum can arrange delicious ethnic lunch at its premises.

Contact Details

Odiart Centre, Barakul, Balugaon,
Khordha, Odisha-752030
Contact No-9439869009,  9853242244
Email : odiartchilika@gmail.com

Also, Read Here:

Celebrating Seasons in Patachitra – a Tribute to an Artist’s Dream and Passion




The pankha is a pinnacle of traditional Odia creation, but its process starts in nature.

A tall Palm Tree
Freshly cut leaves from a Palm Tree
Dried leaves before they are processed for pothi chitra making

During my travel to Nayakapatna village near Raghurajpur in Puri District, I had got a chance how and who procure the leaves, process them before they appear in zigzag folds of yellow-green leaves. A special set of tools known as lekhani are used for etching the processed leaves. It is not an easy task. You need patience and perfection. First, it is drawn in a pencil and then in a lekhani. Colours are filled at the end. The style is influenced by patachitra painting.

A stack of palm leaves
A woman in the cutting and sizing process
After the Cutting and Sizing with the help of various tools
An artisan at work
An artisan at etching work using a lekhani


The pankha is made up four concentric circles out of which the outer three are filled in illustrations depicting Krishna’s all childhood episodes, mystical beasts, flora and fauna and geometrical patterns. Even the handle is not spared. The innermost circle has the depiction of patra-lata (vegetal motifs).









It’s Process




Looking closely at this masterpiece time and again I am reminded of how incredible Odia art has been for centuries. However, sadly with the penetration of foreign goods, especially the Chinese market the glory is fading away at a pace that was never thought up before. But there is hope as long as there is a support of museums like Purvasha and art connoisseurs. Fingers crossed!

Author- Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com