Palm Leaf Paintaings

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. The art originated when written communication began. Messages and manuscripts were written on the palm leaf to be disseminated. Gradually the trend to decorate the text with images began and it became an art in itself. 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 center. To prepare the palm leaf, the unripe leaves of the palm tree are first cut and semidried. They are then buried in swamps for 4-5 days for seasoning and the dried in shade. These are then stitched or stringed together as per the need. At times they are stitched after the etching is complete. The artists of palm leaf etchings capture the themes of mythological incidents, Gods and Goddesses figures complete with details of hair style and dress, animals, flowers and trees etc. Radha and Krishna, Durga, Ganesha and Saraswati are the most commonly used themes. Stories and incidents of Mahabharat, Ramayana and other epics are also etched. 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.

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