PATTACHITRA IN HERITAGE VILLAGE RAGHURAJPUR, ODISHA: OFFBEAT SOLO BUDGET TRIP FROM PURI

PATTACHITRA IN HERITAGE VILLAGE RAGHURAJPUR, ODISHA: OFFBEAT SOLO BUDGET TRIP FROM PURI

This blog is about my visit to Raghurajpur, a small heritage crafts village near Puri in India. Also, check out the very trendy OYO that I stayed at, in Puri. Just a quick scenic drive away from Puri, Raghurajpur is an offbeat destination in the little town in Odisha, popular for the Jagannath Temple.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha (17)

You will find art in one form or other outside most homes in the Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

PURI TO RAGHURAJPUR HERITAGE VILLAGE : PICTURE POSTCARD PERFECT

After visiting Chattisgarh and Jharkhand in September 2018 for the first time, I followed it up with a short trip to Odisha. Super excited and accompanied with Ajit ji, I reached the offbeat heritage crafts village in Raghurajpur.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha (8)

You will see this wall when you drive from Puri to Bhubaneshwar. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

With eyes peeled for the exotic sights and smells of Odisha, we drove on a bike from the temple town of Puri. With an expected arrival time of 20 to 30 minutes from Puri to Raghurajpur, the ride was picturesque, ranging from ancient temples, sacred lakes, charming houses, and small shops to vast tracts of green fields, and more.

Sanjaya Patra Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha (4)

Sanjay Patra from Village Senapatia with his work in his home cum studio. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

As we were about to enter Raghurajpur, I asked Ajit ji to stop at a pond. I wanted to gaze at the many gorgeous lakes that punctuated the landscape with tiny huts and their reflections in the palm-fringed lake. We also spotted new things such as small decorative boats floating in the lake. Ajit ji told me it was part of a local village festival.

Yellow hotels OYO Rooms Raghurajpur Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha (3)

The boats in the community pond indicated a local festival. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

The village was adorned with rivers, lakes and palm groves spread across the landscape, reminding me of Kerala and my favourite state, Goa. In that brief time in Odisha, I fell in love with the region in a very unprecedented way.

Yellow hotels OYO Rooms Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha Raghurajpur

The boats in the community pond indicated a local festival. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Thanks to fellow travel blogger Divya Prasad for introducing me to Ajit Swain ji who took me on a fabulous heritage village tour of Raghurajpur, 15 kms away from Puri.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village talpattachitra Puri Odisha coconut

An artist making Pattachitra on a coconut shell in her home cum studio. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

The main motive of my visit was to see the Pattachitra artists at work. As an added bonus, I witnessed beautiful locales, tasted amazing local food and ventured into the heart of rural Odisha. Ajit ji’s NGO is called Dedicated To People, and it does exactly what the name suggests. Based in a village near Puri, they help the underprivileged artists to become self-sustainable and financially independent.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Sanjaya Patra Odisha (2)

Sanjay Patra from Village Senapatia at work. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Our first stop was at an artist’s home, on the periphery of the heritage village in Raghurajpur. The unassuming artist had his nose buried in a miniature Pattachitra piece that he was working on. It was supposed to be a quick pit stop but intrigued by the unique art form, I lost track of time. As I bombarded the artist with my questions, he took us inside his modest home through dark and narrow corridors.

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Me with Sanjay Patra from Village Senapatia at his home cum studio. Near Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India. Pic by: Ajit Swain ji

We climbed a few stairs and arrived at his little workshop, big enough to accommodate just 3-4 people at a time. I walked over to the tiny adjoining balcony which opened to a lovely lake, with more greens than blues. The abundant greenery silenced me as I stared at the beauty which surrounded his house. But I was on a job and not on a languorous shikara ride.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha

Sanjay Patra from Village Senapatia. Near Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Seeing the artist still engrossed in his work, I realized painting takes a toll on the body as well. The artists often suffer from eye-related issues and back pain. Working on a miniature painting makes it more difficult as it takes longer and one has to be very careful while on such intricate pieces to avoid smudging.

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Miniature Pattachitra is very difficult to make. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

He took a break and showed me some of his best works. Needless to say, I was impressed with so much talent that hides in the nooks and corners of Indian villages. I was equally disappointed when I learned that these artists earn a pittance for their brilliant work.

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Even the walls inside the homes of pattachitra artists have art all over. This fading art was inside the home of Sanjay Patra from Village Senapatia.  Near Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Government support is mostly absent, so is patronship by corporates or other bigwigs. On the other hand, sly art sellers sell these pieces at high prices in Indian and international markets, keeping most of the profit for themselves.

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Outside the home of Sanjay Patra from Village Senapatia. Close to Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

STAY AWAY FROM THE FAKE PATTACHITRA ARTISTS IN RAGHURAJPUR HERITAGE VILLAGE:

As soon as we entered the heritage crafts village, fancy shops selling Pattachitra lined both sides of the main road. It was more of a pomp and show and less of the soul. I learned that these are retailers who buy from real artists and sell at premium prices at their fancy stores.

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We passed this gorgeous pond of historical and religious significance while reaching Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri on a bike. Odisha, Incredible India

The gullible independent traveller often falls into their trap and is misled into believing that the heritage village begins and ends at these shops. Some go a step further and claim that a particular art piece was made by the dead elders of their family many decades ago, when in fact the person in question, is sitting in the adjoining room.

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Me and Ajit ji devouring local meal inside a temple. Near Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible IndiaPic by: A local.

This enhances the ‘antiquity’ of the art and some do fall prey to the trap. We wore horse blinders instead and continued our journey towards the real heritage village. I did not see a single tourist/traveller when I arrived there, as it was not the season.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village talpattachitra Puri Odisha coconut art

An artist making Pattachitra on coconut in her home cum studio. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

VISITING THE AUTHENTIC PATTACHITRA ARTISTS IN THEIR HOMES IN RAGHURAJPUR HERITAGE VILLAGE:

The dance Guru was driving away with his wife on a scooter when we crossed path. Ajit ji stopped the bike and told him we were coming to meet him only. He smiled and said he will be back soon. The bike started running parallel to the beautiful river again. We arrived at the temple, close to which Guruji stays along with many other artists.

Gangadhar Nayak Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha (12)

Gangadhar Nayak ji showing me his best Pattachitra collection. His elder son is great with the art forms. He has acted in a Bengali film. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

DISCOVERING TALAPATRACHITRA IN RAGHURAJPUR HERITAGE VILLAGE

I met a renowned Talapatrachitra artist. Tala means palm while patra means leaf and chitra means picture. Traditionally, Talapatrachitra is an art form where scenes from Hindu mythology are depicted on neatly cut dry greenish yellow palm leaves, mostly in rectangular shapes and stitched together with threads and needles.

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An artist showing one of his best Talapattachitra works. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Unlike Pattachitra, the images are not paintings but engravings done by a traditional needle. The artist showed me some of his very old tools, which qualify to be categorised as antiques. He also uses modern equipments like a compass that was not available to the artists of yore.

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Gangadhar Nayak ji demonstrating to me how Talapattachitra works. He also teaches the traditional Gotipua dance form. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Most of the art pieces had images of Gods and iconic mythological events. Some had interesting variations such as if you flip a fold, a hidden image appears which is always an erotic Kamasutra pose. Quirky and fun!

Raghurajpur Heritage Village talpattachitra Puri Odisha

An ancient tool used to carve while making a Talapattachitra piece. This is one of the prized possession of Gangadhar Nayak ji. He carved my name on the dried leaf with this ‘pen’. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Sun rays escaped from one of the windows of his modest studio and reflected on his wife who concentrated on painting a coconut with pattachitra motifs.

Sanjaya Patra

Gangadhar Nayak ji showing me his collection of ancient Talapattachitra manuscript. This is how books looked many centuries ago. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Coconut of different sizes and shapes hung at one of the corners of the tiny room. I bought some of those as souvenirs and bid adieu.

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A sample of Talapattachitra depicting lord Krishna. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

GOTIPUA DANCE FORM- PRECURSOR TO ODISSI DANCE

I walked up to Guruji’s home, who had now returned and was resting on the floor of his studio. A young boy wearing a vest and pants served me water. His swift and graceful body movements hinted at the fact that he was a trained dancer.

Gangadhar Nayak Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha (14)

Gangadhar Nayak ji showing me his best Pattachitra collection. His elder son is great with the art forms. He has acted in a Bengali film. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

I was told that Gotipua is a dance performed by boys who dress up as females. Guruji has even acted in a 2018 Bengali film called Nilacholey Kiriti starring Indraneil Sengupta. His son soon joined us and proudly played a song from Nilacholey Kiriti on YouTube.

coconut art Raghurajpur Heritage Village talpattachitra Puri Odisha

I bought many of these coconut shells painted with Pattachitra. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

He also showed us the scene where Guruji shared the screen with Indraneil Sengupta. You can see his group perform here, from 1:55 onwards.

Gangadhar Nayak dancer Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha

Gangadhar Nayak ji showing me his best Pattachitra collection. His elder son is great with the art forms. He has acted in a Bengali film. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Guruji’s younger son is also a professional dancer. Guruji proudly told me that his son had recently performed in South Africa while he himself had never performed outside of India. On the other hand, his elder son is a Pattachitra artist. Guruji showed his artwork to me out of his personal treasure trunk.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha gangadhar maharana National award (3)

Gangadhar Maharana ji outside his home. Notice the fading Pattachitra paintings made by his father on the walls ages ago. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

MEETING THE NATIONAL AWARD WINNING PATTACHITRA ARTIST AT RAGHURAJPUR:

Of all the houses of artists that I had visited so far, this one was the largest, while being simple and modest.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha National Award

Pattachitra artist Gangadhar Maharana ji receiving the national Award from the erstwhile President Mr. Pranab Mukherji. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

His studio was also huge, where he, his son and daughter were seen painting together as his retired father was resting in another corner.

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Gangadhar Maharana ji giving final touches to a Pattachitra painting. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

He showed me around his home. I walked slowly, sometimes going through his awards and accolades, sometimes admiring the old Pattachitra paintings on the wall made by his now frail father.

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Gangadhar Maharana ji with one of his best works. No wonder he is a National Award winner Pattachitra artist. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Thanks to his awards and stature, he commands the highest price for his paintings in the village, sometimes going up to Rs. 1 lakh a piece. I was not surprised when I saw some of his best works.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha gangadhar maharana National award

Now retired father of Gangadhar Maharana ji. He was also a renowned Pattachitra artist of his times. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Small neatly cut circles attracted my attention. It looked familiar and yet so unique.

Ganjapa card game Raghurajpur Heritage Village talpattachitra Puri Odisha

The traditional cards game Ganjapa. Made by Gangadhar Maharana ji. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

What caught my attention the most was Ganjapa, the traditional Odia playing cards. Dating back to the 14th century, these cards had beautifully Pattachitra paintings on them.

Ganjapa card game Raghurajpur Heritage Village talpattachitra Puri Odisha (2)

The traditional cards game Ganjapa. By Gangadhar Maharana ji. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

PATTACHITRA: GIVING LIVELIHOOD TO ORPHANS AND THE IMPOVERISHED:

I am not an artist but I was still completely absorbed in the tour to Heritage Crafts Village at Raghurajpur. From a planned 3-hour tour, the visit extended to 7 hours.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha Sabita Behera

The orphan girl Sabita Behera who stays in Nua Balia village impressed me with her expertise. It was heartening to see that just talent exists in nondescript villages. Also, notice the ancient bed.  Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

We visited different artists, including an orphan girl who now supports herself with her art skills that Ajit ji helped build in her. It was getting dark when we reached her home. She was sitting and painting on a very old bed.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha miniature

This kind of miniature Pattachitra work can take many weeks to make and is back breaking! Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

I alternated between admiring the antiquity of the bed and the brilliance of the painting. Another completed painting was lying on a side platform. She lost her parents when she was very young and since then, she has been living with her sister and brother-in-law.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha gangadhar maharana National award (2)

The home of a Pattachitra artist. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

Soon, her brother-in-law came bearing coconut water for us. Just as he was preparing, the electricity suddenly went off. Torch lights from our mobile helped him make incisions on the coconuts. We gulped down the coconut water. Undoubtedly, it was the tastiest coconut water I have ever had.

 

Before we visited her, we also made a pit stop at another young girl’s house. Hailing from an underprivileged family didn’t stop her from developing her skills. Watching her paint diligently was a poignant moment and reinstated my faith in the saying that nothing is impossible.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha pond

Such community ponds are the lifeline and social meeting point for villagers of Odisha. I was super excited to spot these until we passed one every few minutes. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

As I hopped on to Ajit ji’s bike, he drove through the narrow lanes. It was a full moon night, so despite the electricity cut, I could see everything clearly. Ajit ji stopped and pointed to a house by the river. “That is the back of Guruji’s house!”, he said. I retorted, with a tinge of jealousy, “Everyone here seems to be having the best views from their houses”.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha gangadhar maharana National award (6)

An old fading Pattachitra painting showing Konark Mandir outside the home of Gangadhar Maharana ji. It was made by his father aeons ago. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

We then drove by the river quietly; often ducking to avoid getting our heads hit by the tree branches. I continued absorbing the aromas and sounds which seemed accentuated in the moonlight. It was truly a beautiful day!

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha gangadhar maharana National award (7)

Pattachitra painting made by the now retired father of Gangadhar Maharana ji, National Award winner. It is an old fading art outside his home. It depicts Lord Jagannath. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

ABOUT PATTACHITRA:

Pattachitra is a centuries-old cloth-based art form found in Bengal and Odisha. Can you believe that the earliest records of Pattachitra can be traced back to the 1st century AD?

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha gangadhar maharana National award Ajit Swain

Ajit Swain ji with a large Pattachitra painting outside his shop. I bought many paintings and other Pattachitra merchandise from him at a very reasonable rate. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

HOW TO BOOK A TRIP TO RAGHURAJPUR, HERITAGE CRAFTS VILLAGE IN ODISHA?

I was so impressed with the art that I didn’t realise where time went in Raghurajpur. No wonder that despite being a non-shopper, I ended up buying many paintings and handicrafts. Do pay a visit to this village the next time you are in Odisha. And please carry a large bag as you might end up buying a lot of art to spruce up your mundane walls.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha gangadhar maharana National award ajit swain (2)

Ajit Swain ji is the perfect host and can give you an amazing experience, taking you into the heart of rural Odisha. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

You need to contact Ajit ji to arrange such a trip for you. It’s offbeat Odisha at its best. And as a perfect host he served me home-cooked vegetarian Odia meals and showed me around his village. I also had a double lunch at a community feast in a local temple. It was a thrilling day.

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Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

P.S.: Thanks to Ajit ji for clicking so many candid pictures of me. Do check out some of the BTS (Behind-the-scenes) too in this post. Odisha, you have totally surprised me! I would love to come back soon.

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These Pattachitra paintings are made on Amul Cool bottles. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

WANT TO ATTEND A RESIDENTIAL WORKSHOP?

For those who are looking for a deeper understanding of Pattachitra or those who want to master the craft, Ajit ji has a studio where you can stay for a week or more and learn Pattachitra from the local artists.

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Me at work. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India. Candid shot by Ajit Swain ji

When I visited the studio, a saree was being hand-painted. If you wish, you can stay longer and learn the art. The studio also has a lawn where he arranges lunches, dance programs and village walks during the season. Please get in touch with Ajit ji for the same.

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I loved these candid shots of me by Ajit Swain ji. Not perfect, but very real! Near Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

WHERE TO STAY IN PURI:

I kept my base in Puri and visited Konark, Puri, Bhubaneswar and Raghurajpur.

Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha

The grand road as seen from Yellow Hotels, An OYO Rooms property. You can see the giant Jagannath Temple of Puri in far distance on the right.

I stayed at Yellow Hotels by OYO. As you can see in the pictures, the rooms are quite trendy and cool. I was impressed by the sheer size and pleasing aesthetics of their rooms.

Yellow hotels Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha (3)

Yellow Hotels by OYO Rooms was a wonderful place to stay in Puri.

The yellow was refreshing, spread through the entire property. My room was very cosy with all possible modern amenities that one can think of. The luggage rack and the large wardrobe helped me organise my belongings neatly and with ease.

Yellow hotels OYO Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha

My bed at Yellow Hotel, OYO Rooms, Puri. Odisha

The washroom was well-ventilated and had dispensers for hand wash, shower gel and shampoo. The best part was the airy room. It only gave out positive vibes. That’s all I needed after tiring sessions of sightseeing, photography and travel.

Yellow hotels OYO Rooms Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha (2)

The washroom was airy and had natural light in day. Yellow Hotel, OYO Rooms, Puri. Odisha

Kudos to OYO for adding such amazing premium properties to their ever-growing list of hotels! Not only have they made it easy to find such properties online and on the app but also, one can choose the hotels as per the budget, location, amenities, etc.

Yellow hotels Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha

I loved the al fresco dining space. You can get grand views of the Grand Road. Perfect place to stay, especially during the Jagannath Yatra. Yellow Hotel, OYO Rooms, Puri. Odisha

Being a traveler, I know the online presence of affordable properties was absent earlier. OYO has revolutionised the hotel industry in recent years.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village Pattachitra Puri Odisha

Views from the Yellow Hotel, OYO Rooms, Puri. Odisha

LOCATION OF OYO’S YELLOW HOTELS, PURI:

OYO’s Yellow Hotels is very conveniently located at a walking distance from the Puri Beach and the Jagannath Temple. Thanks to that, I ended up visiting these two places often. One of the best features of the property is the Al Fresco Dining option.

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My breakfast at Yellow Hotel, OYO Rooms, Puri. Odisha

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My dinner – veg biryani. The quantity was huge. Yellow Hotel, OYO Rooms, Puri. Odisha

Here you can eat sitting amidst green views on one side and the magnificent Jagannath Temple on the other. The property is located above a shopping mall, grocery stores and a food court.

Yellow hotels OYO Rooms Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha

The dispenser for bath gel and shampoo was a nice feature in the washroom. Yellow Hotel, OYO Rooms, Puri. Odisha

It is also close to many restaurants, ATMs, markets and railway station (Rs.40 rickshaw ride away). Therefore, being very easily accessible.

Yellow hotels Jagannath Temple Grand Road Puri Odisha (2)

Study table. Yellow Hotel, OYO Rooms, Puri. Odisha

FOOD AT OYO’S YELLOW HOTELS, PURI:

You can either order room service or dine at Al Fresco — their rooftop dining space. The menu has something for everyone. The prices are reasonable with generous servings. On the first day, I ordered mixed vegetables in black bean sauce with Hakka noodles, followed by veg biryani on the next day.

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Pattachitra. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

For now, the breakfast is a la carte. I took that opportunity and ended up ordering my favourite paratha sabzi and sandwiches with fries. This is the affordable luxury at its best. With soul food like this, my #SoulWindow truly opens up to beautiful possibilities and views.

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A poor girl making talpattchitra. Ajit ji supports her and many others in making them self dependent. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

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Pattachitra on beer bottles. Artists do not paint images of Gods on beer bottles as a mark of respect. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

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Inside the home of Gangadhar Nayak ji. You can buy these. I did. Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

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Pattachitra outside the home of Sanjaya Patra who lives in Senapatia. Near Raghurajpur Heritage Village near Puri. Odisha, Incredible India

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