Chariot work enters last phase Painters give finishing touch

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  • Published 17.06.14

Bhubaneswar, June 16: The most iconic Odia festival — rath yatra — is less than a fortnight away. Construction of chariots is at its peak while workers are also seen sweating it out to accessorise the chariots the right way.

At present, traditional painters are busy colouring wooden sculptures of various deities whose presence is a must on the chariots.

The painters or chitrakars, who also paint the chariots once the construction is complete, hail from a lineage of servitors who have been assigned with the art and painting services for generations. Like the carpenters, they also begin their painting work on the day of Akshay Tritiya.

“This is the foremost duty for our clan and each of us makes sure to be here during the rath yatra work,” said the chief of the artist group assigned for Subhadra and Balabhadra’s chariots, Buddha Moharana, also a veteran art director in Odia films.

Before most of the portions of the chariots are ready, the painters keep themselves busy in bringing alive the wooden sculptures of minor deities fixed alongside the chariots, known as parswa devatas. These are wooden idols that are not changed every year unlike the chariot itself that is constructed anew every year. The idols of the minor deities are just taken off the chariots and kept safe for a year when they are again taken out during rath construction. The old paint is first removed with traditional tricks and then new paint is coated on the wooden sculptures.

“We paint the parswa devata idols carefully since these idols are not created again. They are made during the Nabakalebara when the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are made afresh once in many years,” the veteran artist informed The Telegraph.

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. Meanwhile, when the wheels and other parts of the chariots are ready, the painters draw 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 images of mythological characters created around the seat of the deities.