While exploring the land of Odisha, we cannot miss out on its rich cultural heritage. It offers to the world a very unique expression of this heritage. It is unique because for now we are keeping aside the usual materials we need for making the base of all the art that is to be created, such as paper, cloth etc.
Make way for Palm Leaves!
Talapatra Khodai from Odisha, as an art form, has shown the world that art is in no way limited.
The art form has a long history, as palm leaves were often used as manuscripts in the past. As complicated as the process of painting on a leaf is, the result is just as beautiful.
'Tala' refers to palm and ‘Patra’ means leaf. Quite literally, talapatra is an art form of the Palm Leaf. Mythological stories like Ramayana and Mahabharata find a place in the art form, where they are depicted visually on the leaves. Recently, the oldest version of Valmiki's Ramayana was found in Nepal. It is said to have been done as a Manuscript on palm leaves.
How are the leaves painted?
The Palm leaves are dried under the sun for two to three months. After being soaked in water they are further subjected to the treatment of a turmeric solution to make sure that they last longer.
After successfully drying up, they are finally ready to paint. They are tied together to make a scroll out of many palm leaves, a story is then drawn intricately onto the scroll. They are stitched in such a fine manner that it is impossible to make out that the scroll is made out of many leaves, appearing as if the scroll is all there is. The drawing is made with fine details as well, making sure even the smallest of the features are drawn correctly. The artists use many techniques to ensure that the drawing is perfected. The drawing is then painted with natural colours.
By making the use of palm leaves to paint and depict intricacies of mythological stories and narratives, it has throughout the years helped us realise that none of our actions have to be separated from the natural order of things.
Our stories and ideas also find a home in what arises out of the soil- Man's existence, like this, is etched into these leaves. Writes Mary Oliver, in her poem 'When I am among the trees'.
"Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, 'Stay Awhile'
The Light flows from their branches"
While one literary artist writes, our fine artists from Odisha paint this reality.
What a beautiful way to express the interconnectedness of our universe- Man's idealism being given a material form in nature. Light flowing from the branches and our being, being channelized into art.
Written by - Saras Jaiswal