As a continuation of our Odisha trip, we checked out of Puri early around 9 am, and headed towards Raghurajpur. Was a very pleasant experience of 45 minute’s drive to this small but mighty village of artisans, Raghurajpur.
We picked Raghurajpur since it has a special place in our life- the birthplace of Tia’s dance guru’s (Smt. Nandita Behera) teacher, mentor, and spiritual guide, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.
Later, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is Number 2 on ‘top things to do in Puri’ in TripAdvisor’s list for being the birthplace of another art form-Patachitra.
Who is Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra?
A legend- whose name is synonymous with the revival of the Odissi dance form and bringing it mainstream, so that we and our future generations can enjoy the ecstasy of this spiritual art form thousands of miles away from its birthplace.
Reminisces: Guru Kelucharan came into my life after Tia started learning Odisha. I did not grow up with Indian classical dance, I was brought up with Indian classical music. Tia’s teacher Smt Nandita Behera was one of his senior students and she reminisced about him in almost every class as she taught her students. We learned not only his dance form but also who he was, up close and personal.
His birthplace: Being in the USA for the last 27 years, a country with a relatively young history, even smaller places of history are preserved and memorialized. Being the larger than life persona that Guru Kelucharan was, we had expected a different experience at his birthplace. Truth be told, I was saddened. However, it made me realize that his legacy is so large that he will be remembered for his contribution to the world of dance and the upkeep of his birthplace will be probably irrelevant.
Patachitra is a traditional art form where artists depict mythological stories on scroll, papyrus, or cloth.
It’s fascinating how, in India, this art form pervades but takes on a local flavor. In Odisha, this form is called Patachitra and depicts stories about Jagannath. In a different part of India( Bihar), art on fabric also exists as Madhubani– the same concept, a different technique, and a different mythology. In West Bengal, this is represented by baluchuri. A different fabric, a different weave, a different technique- the common denominator- tell a story.
In Raghurajpur, artists also use another canvas- their abode to tell the story.
Living area- what a beautiful way to live and express
This is an artisan village and every residence has an artist or sometimes, the whole family, involved in Patachitra. This art has been passed down for generations. The colors used are earthy, originally extracted from natural dyes. Patachitra is an expression and it’s not limited to scrolls of papyrus. It’s expressed in different forms- paintings, household items, and home decor.
Verdict: this is definitely a must see place. We were approached by a number of artists and were pleasantly surprised that while , they competed, they had a camaraderie, and did not outshadow one another.
Sights and smells…
We visited the homes of one of the artists where we bought some memorabilia and were warmly welcomed to their world. We brought back, not just the art we bought, but a glimpse of their simple life- the smell of the wood burning in the earthen stove, the soft boiling sound of the water in the aluminum pot, and the familiar and somewhat forgotten wafts of the rice that we grew up with.
At some point, our unfamiliar worlds blended as we moved along our sojourn to the magnificent Konark Temple which will be covered in my next blog.
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