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  • Writer's pictureVarnika Priyadarshini

Raghurajpur: Odisha’s best-kept secret

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

A village of chitrakars, in the land of God

If Odisha is the best-kept secret of Incredible India, then Raghurajpur is of Odisha. A village where every villager is an artist, and every home, no less than an art gallery, Raghurajpur, is blessed with immense art and talent. The famous Pattachitra paintings root from here. An ancient village with quaint houses (120 approximately) surrounded by groves of coconut, mango, palm, and jackfruit, Raghurajpur may masquerade to be an ordinary hamlet but when you enter the village, you realize that you have entered an artists’ village where every settler is a chitrakar, painting foregone mythology and hailing Lord Jagannath.

Read more about the travel experience from Odisha in the blog written by Parnashree!!

How to reach?

Only gaadi no ghoda!

Situated 14km away from the abode of Lord Jagannath, a visit to Raghurajpur is a sine qua non if you happen to come to the pilgrimage town of Puri. Take the Bhubaneswar road from Puri and head towards Chandanpur on NH-316. Upon reaching the Chandanpur Bazaar, take a right turn to reach Raghurajpur, 1.5 km from Chandanpur, on the southern banks of river Bhargavi. You can take a local bus from Puri to Chandanpur and then take a long walk towards the village or book private means of transportation like auto or taxi for convenience. The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar and the nearest rail head is Puri. Village doesn’t have any stay options. Explore as a day trip from Puri.

Heritage of Raghurajpur

Parampara, Pratishtha, Anushasan!

It is believed that the village of Raghurajpur was established by the ruler of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, King Narasingha Deva I. During the reign of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, art and architecture flourished exponentially. In this period, Pattachitra art matured here and now as an ancestral treasure, the skill is passed from one generation to the other. Artists here trace their origin to the Savar tribe and are known as ‘chitrakars’.

Pattachitra evolved from two Sanskrit words Patta (cloth) and Chitra (painting) is one of the oldest art forms of Odisha that dates back to the 5th century BCE. As the name suggests, Pattachitra was traditionally painted on cloth. There are various types of Pattachitra paintings- Tassar Pattachitra, Palm leaves Patta Chitra and lately, chitrakars have started painting on coconuts, betel nuts, clay pots, and bottles.

The artists traditionally painted playing cards or Ganjifa. Another interesting piece of art you might find- Chitra pothies. They are a collection of painted palm leaves with mythological themes, stacked on top of each other and held together through a string. The preparation of canvas is an elaborate process. To make the surface hard yet absorbent, a gummy paste of boiled tamarind seeds and soft granite powder is plastered on the stretched piece of cloth. It is a tradition to directly paint the borders first and then apply flat colors which are normally white, black, yellow, red. The materials used in the paint are extracted from vegetables and mineral resources. For instance, black is made out of the shoot, white is prepared from crushed, boiled, and filtered shells and red shingle stone. Chitrakars paint mythological and folk themes. Krishna Leela and the portrayal of Lord Jagannath, Subhadra, and Balabhadra are major depictions. Shilpa Guru Dr.Jagannath Mahapatra, a prominent Pattachitra artist hailed from here.

Raghurajpur is a treasure of art and cultural heritage. It is here where Gotipua Nritya, the precursor of Indian classical dance, Odissi originated. Gotipua means single boy (goti-pua), is a traditional dance form with acrobatic elements, performed by a group of boys who dress as women to praise Lord Jagannath, Krishna, and Radha. However, the dancers are now breaking the conventional gender barriers. But in Raghurajpur, the tradition is still rigid. Abhinav Sundar Gotipua Dance Gurukul in the village is a voluntary institution in the residence of Guru Basant Kumar Maharana and founder Director Guru Sri Laxman Maharana. Replicating the ancient Gurukul system, the boys here stay with the Guru in his residence for at least six years to complete the course of training. The institution also provides formal education up to 10th grade. Raghurajpur is the birthplace of Odissi dancer Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Gotipua dancer Padma Shri Guru Maguni Charan Das.

Faith and festival

Jai Jagannath!

The village has a temple for its presiding deity, Goddess Bhuasuni, and a series of other temples devoted to gods like Radha Mohan, Gopinath, Raghunath, Laxminarayan, and Gouranga. Basant Utsav- Parampara Raghurajpur is an annual spring festival organized here in February or March and is a major tourist attraction. It was first organized in 1993 under the guidance of the State Tourism Department and Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata.

Artists’ Village turned Heritage Village

The world is here, where are you?

INTACH in 2000 after a two-year intensive research and documentation developed it as a heritage village and the Odisha government declared it as one. When I first visited the place with my parents, I was too young to appreciate Odisha’s heritage of art and craft and comprehend its kernel. But their simplicity and warm welcome moved me. They didn’t force us to buy anything. They were extremely enthusiastic to show us their artwork. We did buy a painting but unfortunately, we couldn’t pay the price the painting was worth as we were short of money that day but they happily took whatever we paid and only asked to visit them more often! The diligence of the artists who despite all odds were passionate to take forward the legacy of Raghurajpur will impel you to spend more days in their harbor. The fine strokes of the artists, their incredible talent, and their zeal will give you the experience to cherish for a lifetime!

Come and witness the incredible art and heritage of Odisha in (no more a secret) Raghurajpur! It is a painstaking effort to keep intact the traditional art style and passionately take forward the legacy. When you visit Raghurajpur, show all your love and support to the indigenous artists who are endeavoring day and night to prevent the death of their folk art style.

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