Palm Leaf Painting – Ancient and creative Folk art of Orissa

In this post, I have used a Folk art of Orissa, India- ‘Palm Leaf Painting’; to provide an example of superior innovation in art.

I find striking similarity between Art and workplace of today. Both need acts of creativity to sustain.

While talented artists have always come up with great innovation in art, great leaders and business wizards have come up with innovation marvels at workplace.

This post is dedicated to one such innovation in folk Indian art- ‘Palm Leaf Painting’ or ‘Pattachitra’ or ‘Talapatrachitras’.

Introduction to the Palm Leaf Paintings

Innovation is natural. Human beings have been displaying the same throughout the process of evolution.

After the development of manuscripts, leaves were used to transfer written messages. Palm leaf was used in ancient India to preserve the written texts for the succeeding generations.

This practice led to the rise of exquisite Palm Leaf Painting of Orissa.

The practice stopped after introduction of paper in medieval periods. Even now, higher Himalayas are the abode of the palm trees.

It is considered pious by the Indians as manuscripts of almost all ancient religious texts were written on them.

Creativity flourishes in all times. The ancient art innovators also devised an art form that used palm leaves for etching and painting. It is said to have originated from the Odisha region of India formerly known as Orissa.

It is called Talapatrachitras or Tala-Pattachitras there and is regarded as one of the most creative art forms in the region till date.

Palm Leaf Painting, Talapatrachitras- Ancient and creative Folk art of Odisha 8


Tala-Pattachitra are ancient but mesmerizing and still retain the authenticity and class of ancient art. Even more interesting is the process of crafting Tala-Pattachitras.

 Palm leaf painting- Background

According to the official portal of the government of Odisha,

“The ethnic art form essentially consists of inscribing letters and artistic designs on palm-leaf, mostly cut into standard sizes and held together with two wooden plank covers stringed through a hole in the centre.

To prepare the palm leaf, the unripe leaves of the palm tree are first cut and semi dried.

They are then buried in swamps for 4-5 days for seasoning and then dried in shade. These are then stitched or stringed together as per need. At times, they are stitched after the etching is complete.”

Vegetables, minerals, charcoal, oils etc are used in this form of art and utensils used for etching and painting are also normally made of metals or bamboos.

As is common with other several ancient and folk art forms of India, Palm leaf painting takes inspirations from epic Mahabharata and Ramayana and includes paintings primarily of gods and goddesses  It also present excellent drawings of nature.

Palm Leaf Painting, Talapatrachitras- Ancient and creative Folk art of Odisha 2


Palm leaf Pattachitra in Oriya language is known as Talapatrachitras drawn on palm leaf.For artists and professionals. Wikipedia gives a better insight of this art form and explains the process of Pattachitra.


Palm Leaf Painting, Talapatrachitras- Ancient and creative Folk art of Odisha 3


Still used in villages, this art has regained its importance with the drive of the government to promote and rejuvenate the Folk arts of India which are highly innovative, rich and versatile.

With a greater international interest, the future of this ancient art seems bright.

Palm leaf painting- Innovative and Enriching Indian art

These art forms are said to be thousands of years old and are still very much a part of the Indian tradition especially in Odisha.

These sort of art forms can be found in most of the homes in India.

India, historically has faced several invasions, may it be the Greeks, Mughals, Romans or other invaders and traders.

They may have looted or exploited the country but Art works generally remained intact at several places and thus India is extremely rich in various art forms, which actually have served as major unifying factor for India over the years.


Palm Leaf Painting, Talapatrachitras- Ancient and creative Folk art of Odisha 9


An extension to this art form is the Pattachitra which is also a traditional art form of Odisha but instead of Palm leaf, clothes are used for paintings. Patta means clothes and Chitra means painting.

Like Talapatrachitra, even this art form is highly influenced by mythology and depicts Hindu deities in most of the paintings. Both Talapatrachitras and Pattachitra are common in other regions of India too, in various ethnic forms and variations.


Palm Leaf Painting, Talapatrachitras- Ancient and creative Folk art of Odisha 1


One of the very famous folkloric form of Pattachitra can be found in Mithila region of Bihar in the form of Mithila Paintings (Madhubani art).

It used to be a common practice back in the days to cross ethnic boundaries to make art richer. Art even in the current era doesn’t see boundaries.

Innovative folk art forms are closer to the culture and to the people and this makes them even more attractive. These artworks exist both in folk form and classical form but have greater inclination towards Folk form.

This traditional art has mesmerized art lovers in India and around the globe with its creativity, meticulousness and longevity.

The short video below is a tribute to Palm leaf painting of Orissa.

One Response

  1. rashmi January 18, 2016

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