| Artists paint idols and images of the Lord’s chariot in Puri. Pictures by Sarat Patra
Bhubaneswar, June 11: Carpenters are hard at work on the three chariots of the deities in Puri, as the grandest festival of the state, rath yatra, nears. The chitrakars, or traditional artists, are busy too, etching delicate patterns and mythological figures on the raths.
Striking artwork in form of designs inspired by nature, such as floral motifs of daali and padma or lotus, have been created on the wooden columns and pillars of the chariots already. The raths will be decorated with designs from the apex to the wheels.
The artists involved in painting the chariots belong to a lineage of servitors who have been assigned this particular service for generations.
“We start work on the auspicious day of Akshay Tritiya when the carpenters start cutting the logs to make the chariots. No matter where I am, I make sure I am present here for my hereditary service to the Lords from Akshay Tritiya to bahuda yatra,” said Buddha Moharana, the chief chitrakar of the chariots of Subhadra and Balabhadra, who is a renowned art director in Odia films.
“Until the different parts of the chariots get ready, we work on painting, the parswa devatas or deities whose idols in wood are attached to the chariots, since these idols are not created again. They are made during the Nabakaleibara when the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are made,” said the artist.
The artists first wash and clean the set of 27 parswa devatas (nine each, common to all chariots), the idols of guards Jaya and Bijaya for Jagannath and Balabhadra’s chariot and the idols of the two sakhis attached to Subhadra’s chariot. They then coat it with enamel paint. When the wheels and other parts of the chariots are ready, the chitrakars draw the decorative motifs on them.
The main colours used in the paintings are yellow, red, green, white, black and many complementary colours. Some of the most attractive works on the chariots are the prabhas or images of mythological characters created around the seat of the deities.
In Nandighosha, the chariot of Jagannath, the artists create images of Shiv and Brahma behind the seat and under the seat are seen cows and calves as well as the sapta rishis. A group of pigeons are drawn above the seat. For Taladhwaja, the chariot of Balabhadra, the prabhas include Narendra and Indra while for Debadalana, the chariot of Subhadra, the deities are Ganga and Jamuna. A number of other deities such as Arjun, Kamdev and others are also painted by the chitrakars.
“Since we have been trained since childhood in the art work for chariots, it does not take us long to get ready with it. Overall, more than 30 artists work on the painting and art decoration for the three chariots,” said Narayan Moharana, the lead artist for Jagannath’s chariot.
The painting work will be done by Netra Utsav or the eve of rath yatra. Apart from painting the chariots, the artists also draw the traditional patti dian — unique images of the deities on mats. These are worshipped in the sanctum of the Puri temple during the hibernation of the divine siblings.