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Map of a lost art form

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 19: One of the most fascinating art works of the state, Jatri Patti, has almost faded away as there are no current practitioners.

An ancient art form that was practiced on the outskirts of Puri and had great significance in popularising the Jagannath culture, it has no one to preserve it today.

Over the past few years, only two artists — Kunja Maharana and Babaji Maharana in Raghurajpur — had the expertise of the art. Despite all odds, they continued creating the Jatri Patti. But after they died, the art form has no saviour.

Jatri Patti is a traditional Odia painting made by artists in Puri. They depicted the plan of the temple in exquisite miniatures. In the bigger versions, Puri, along with the temple, is depicted. The smallest Jatri Patti was ‘Angutha’, which was the size of a finger. Larger than that was ‘Panna’ – the most common form of Jatri Patti that was made on a special type of paper. Other art works were made on cloth or canvas. The bigger pieces were called Tini Mandiriya, Harina Thia, Hadua and Shankha Nabhi. Thia Badhia was the largest. Renowned art historian Dinanath Pathy said the Jatri Patti was more like a map of Puri.

“Jatri Patti artists would depict the Jagannath temple. Depending on the space of the canvas or paper, they would add or remove elements of the temple. In the bigger works, they would even include important structures of the city. These graphic representations were challenging for the artists since they had to give a panoramic view of the city on a small space,” said Pathy.

“Scholars used to call them a balcony view of Puri,” he said. For centuries, Jatri Patti artists used to sell their work outside the Jagannath temple to pilgrims and tourists.

“The oldest-known collections of Jatri Patti dated back to the 17th century. Some of these works portrayed the town during rath yatra. These are kept at a museum in Copenhagen. Many 19th century works are a part of the museum of Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the National Library of France,” said Pathy.

The India House Library in London has some of these works too, he said.

Since creating Jatri Patti was painstaking and it did not have great demand in the crafts market, Babaji Maharana or Kunja Maharana, both from the family of ‘chitrakaras’ (artists who serve Lord Jagannath), never got a chance to teach the art form to younger artists.

“The artists in the village realised that creating Jatri Patti was a matter of struggle because of its fading popularity in the age of photography. Therefore, no one took the pain to learn the art form,” said Bhagaban Swain, a teacher based in Raghurajpur.

Artists feel there should be more involvement of the government to conserve the art form. “This is when members from the art community, along with government authorities, should make an effort to save the art form that is breathing its last,” said Bhubaneswar--based artist Tarakant Parida.

Pathy said few years ago the temple administration had decided to auction the remaining Jatri Pattis.

“But I believe that getting them printed into calendars and posters will help people know about the art. Since it is not a religious form, but rather a cultural tradition, the state government must intervene to save it,” he said.

As the architect of the upcoming international wing of Bhubaneswar airport, Pathy has included a portion of the Copenhagen collection of Jatri Patti on rath yatra to be reflected on the walls of the lounge.