Rabindra Art: Palm Leaf Painting
Palm leaf paintings are very ancient in Orissa. In Orissa the Palm Leaf illustrations are mainly of two types, simple engravings or illustrations in pure line on palm leaf and engraving with colour fillings. In these engravings, colours are muted and play a very minor part. Where colours are at all applied, they are just painted either to emphasize the inscriptions, or to fill up blank space.
Away from the shops and bazaars, in some friendly Oriyan household or in a temple or at an astrologer’s place, the ancient art of palm leaf writing still survives. Religious texts continue to be read out from palm leaf manuscripts rather than from printed books. Horoscopes, too, are traditionally written on palm leaves by professional horoscope makers known as nahakas. Palm leaf was considered so sacred that even after printing presses began operating in Orissa, important texts continued to be printed on the leaves instead of paper. The printing of New Year cards and wedding ivitations on palm leaf is still popular in Orissa.
Palm Leaf Painting-the technique
Palm leaf painting or etching involves a few intricate steps:
- Rows of same sized palm leaves are first arranged together and sewn.
- These neatly sewn palm leaves are then folded in such a way so as to make a pile.
- These paintings are first etched out, which means that the designs and images are
neatly etched on the surface of the palm leaf using a sharp pen like object. .
- Ink (or a concoction of charcoal of burnt coconut shells, turmeric and oil)
is then poured along the lines; the lines are now defined.
- Vegetable dyes are also added to give these paintings some color,
but these paintings are mostly, dichromatic (black and white).
- The panels of the paintings are unfolded like a fan to reveal a beautiful patta chitra.