Take a walk through the lanes of this small village of about 200 homes dotted with coconut, palm and beetle nut trees, and what would you observe? That the front wall of every house is decorated with brilliant art work, paintings depicting folktales or mythologies like Mahabharata or Ramayana, wedding announcements depicted in colourful decorative murals, cow dung toys and artistic pieces kept for drying in the sun. And the villagers? Well you would find young men, not sitting at the village square; young women, not busy washing clothes in the river or fetching water; Small children, not playing in front of their homes; Old men women, not doing regular daily chores – they are all engaged in making one or the other type of Odisha’s most incredible art forms.
Beetle nut items
Welcome to Raghurajpur a heritage village by INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) where every home is an artist’s home. Situated at a distance of about 15 kms from the beach city Puri, this is Odisha’s first heritage village which has become a major attraction for tourists, artists and explorers visiting Puri.
Cow dung items being kept at sun for drying
Cow dung items after being coloured
One of Odisha’s and India’s most revered art form, Pattachitra painting is the most common art form made in Raghurajpur, dating back to 5 BC in the region. “The name Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit words patta, meaning canvas, and chitra, meaning picture. Pattachitra is thus a painting done on canvas, and is manifested by rich colourful application, creative motifs and designs, and portrayal of simple themes, mostly mythological in depiction.” (Source). Raghurajpur artists also make Tussar paintings, palm leaf engravings, stone and wood carvings, wooden, cow dung and papier mache toys, and masks.
A young artist with his pattachitra painting
The village is also the birthplace of Padma Bibhushan, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, the greatest proponent of Odissi dance form. The predecessor of Odissi dance form, Gutipua also originated from Raghurajpur which is home to Gotipua Gurukul, Dasabhuja Gotipua Odishi Nrutya Parisad established under the guidance of Guru Maguni Charan Das. Besides this, there are several other dance schools in the village.
The rest house at the village has some very interesting surreal wall paintings most probably made by foreign tourists.
A surreal depiction of Goddess Durga
A wall art with rather strange manifestation of consumerism, sexuality and spirituality
The artist village is supported by government and NGOs who buy items from these villagers. Visitors may also directly buy their art from them which means you can buy it in much cheaper rates. I bought a beautiful pattachitra on Tussar for my bed room.
If you are visiting Odissa this is a must visit. A motor rickshaw can be hired from Puri, it would take about 20 mins drive from Puri. There are many bikes also available for rent.
Note: This is not an SWBT travel.