Odisha’s varied landscapes range from forests to beaches, and its tradition of handicrafts is no less diverse mostly inspired by Hindu myths, Mughal designs, Tribal folktales, and nature. Odisha’s crafts are worked in metal, cloth, and stone, and are also an integral part of its culture. Here is some of its finest works:
Sliver Filigree in Cuttack
The ancient city of Cuttack is home to the delicate art of silver filigree jewellery, or tarakasi, which especially flourished under the patronage of the Mughal emperors. Silver still sparkles in its dusty by lanes, with about 1,500 filigree artisans, who learned the craft from their ancestors, plying their wares.Artisans creates silver wires almost as thin as a spider‘s web, Others meticulously shape these into flowers, trinket boxes, jewellery, chariot-shaped souvenirs, and more.The sliver threads are twisted into intricate floral design with help of a sharp knife,the product is fired in a furnace, and glazed and polished with reetha, or soap nut, for that pristine white sparkle.
Visit Cuttack during Durga Puja to witness pandals where idols are set against gorgeous filigree backdrops. While these are the grandest of the lot, almost all pandals in the city have some element of filigree in their design.
Stone Legends of Bhubaneswar
Bhubaneswar abounds in temples and stone sculptures. In fact, the city once had about 2,000 temples, of which 700 still survive. Thanks to the area’s abundant red sandstone, the art of stone carving took off here in the 13th century, and prospered especially under the patronage of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, which ruled between the 11th and 15th centuries. Taking the Bhubaneswar-Puri Road, where shops sell stone statues of deities in different postures and sizes, the museum is spread over two acres on the outskirts of the city. An ornate gate opens to a garden decorated with lifelike sculptures of dancing celestial beings. Raghunath Mohapatra, the founder of the museum, is a pioneer in his field. In the workshop at the museum, artists painstakingly chisel small strips of stone from a large block, which will take the shape of a meditating Buddha. While small statues can be completed within a day, more complex figures can take months to finish. Watching these sculptors work is an experience in itself, as every stroke of their hammer immortalises both myth and history.
Pattachitra and Tala Patra Chitrain Raghurajpur
Most people associate Raghurajpur with pattachitra scroll paintings, but this idyllic village on the banks of the River Bhargabi is equally well-known for tala patrachitra, or palm leaf engraving. Raghurajpur has two neat rows of identical houses, where about 100 artisan families live and work. Artisans makes miniature paintings on sheets of palm leaves, extremely intricate painting of the Dashavatara or the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, which generously takes artisans six months to complete. Each palm leaf painting goes through a number of processes—from stitching sun-dried palm leaves together, to sketching the subject, engraving it with a needle, and staining it with lamp soot. Besides palm leaf engraving, Raghurajpur artists also make toys, paper masks, coconut shell paintings, and wood carvings.
Appliqué Away in Pipili
Visitors to the small town of Pipili are greeted by mirror-encrusted lanterns and umbrellas, gently swaying in the breeze outside handicraft shops. One of Odisha’s most vibrant crafts is the appliqué work found in Pipili. Locally known as chandua, it involves sewing colourful patches of cotton, jute, and silk onto a contrasting fabric with special embroidery techniques.
Common appliqué products include cushion covers, lampshades, bed covers, bags, and umbrellas. More importantly, chandua adorns the giant chariots of the divine trinity of Odisha—Jagannath, Subhadra, and Balabhadra—during the annual Rath Yatra in Puri. The erstwhile rulers of Puri, who were followers of Lord Jagannath, promoted the craft and resettled all the chandua artisans in the same village, which grew into present-day Pipili. Hindu and Muslim appliqué makers live next to each other and work together to produce and sell chandua. Their designs follow age-old patterns with Jagannath’s face often taking pride of place in the larger pieces. Today, some artisans are trying to bring modern elements to this art form by integrating motifs from pattachitra, Warli, and saura tribal paintings, and experimenting with new colour palettes. Pipili’s appliqué has also earned it the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for design and artistry.
Dokra of Dhenkanal
The famous bronze figurine of a dancing girl, excavated from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization site of Mohenjo Daro, is considered the earliest example of dokra, or metal casting. Amazingly, this technique thrives 4,500 years later in the Dhenkanal district of Odisha. Located near the Saptasarjya Hills, Sadeibareni village has 60 thatched houses, inhabited by members of the Situla tribe. Each house is a repository of dokra art, and every local embracing the craft. Many have received the National Shilp Guru award from the Ministry of Textiles.
women artisan prepare black wax strands from beeswax, and resin, which they collect from the surrounding Saptasarjya forest. At another corner of the village, apply natural glue onto sculptures prepared with cowdung and red clay. After the glue is applied, the wax threads are layered around the figurines, which are covered with a clay and cowdung mixture, these sculptures are kept at the centre of the village. The melting wax drains out from a duct at the bottom of the sculpture, and molten brass is poured through a duct on top to fill the space, forming a metal statue. Unlike Chhattisgarhi dokra, which artisans polish to a shiny golden hue, the Sadeibarenidokra retains its raw, unpolished look.