Puri in Odisha is very famous for the Jagannatha temple and the Rath Yatra.
But just about 10 kilometres away, lies another not-so-popular-yet-unique village on the banks of the Dhaudia river.
The moment you enter Raghurajpur, you’ll see rows of houses with walls canvassed with paintings. After all, every villager is an artist and every household doubles up as a workshop.
When you walk through the village, you’ll find the artists working on different art forms — called Pattachitra. In Sanskrit, “Patta” literally means “cloth” and “Chitra” means “picture”. But in Raghurajpur, you’ll come across a lot of diversity in the art form.
Some artists may work on ‘Ganjifa’ playing cards—a popular-but-almost-extinct card game in India. You’ll find others working on Dashavatar playing cards, Ganjifa cards that showcase each of the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu.
And then there may be artisans working on their palm-leaf paintings with fine line drawings painted on inter-locked steps of palm leaves. Interestingly, souvenirs for visitors such as painted palm leaf bookmarks are also a specialty in the village.
What’s beautiful is that these art forms can be dated back to the 12th century; they have been passed on from one generation to the next thanks to artisans like those at Raghurajpur.
Unique, right? Yet, the village does not even make it to the top 10 cities to visit in Odisha, let alone all of India. That, though, does not stop the artists—men and woman—being friend towards visitors and teaching them about their art techniques.
Many families even invite visitors to their household. You can even directly buy from the artists, all while enjoying a lesson or two.
In 2000, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) declared Raghurajpur a ‘Heritage Village’ which has helped the artists explore other traditional art forms such as paper-mâché toys, masks, coconut crafts, wooden toys, etc.
While exploring this art village, you may also stop to pay respect to the memory of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, the much-awarded exponent of Odissi dance, who was born in Raghurajpur.