Mural Painting at Raghurajpur


By INTACH ICCI, Bhubaneswar, Orissa - 16.4 2021


Raghurajpur, a small artists village near Puri, is home to a community of traditional artisans called chitrakaras, best known for pattachitras - exquisite paintings executed on cloth.

A project on the revival of mural painting skills was developed and implemented by INTACH ICCI with support was provided by NORAD, Norway, India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore and Government of Orissa. The main objective was to retrieve lost skills, gather information from ageing artists and document the collected information. The Raghurajpur experiment also aimed at imparting training to the younger generation of chitrakaras. Although mural painting is traditionally a male domain, for the first time women came forward and volunteered to paint, breaking existing gender biases.

Raghurajpur has received a new look following this revival project. The exquisite paintings attract many visitors and so income from tourism has increased. Mr. Jagmohan, ex-Minister for Tourism and Culture, Government of India, gave a fillip to the revival momentum with the announcement of Raghurajpur as a heritage village.


Raghurajpur, a small village set amidst coconut groves and a meandering river, is situated 12 kms from the pilgrimage town of Jagannath Puri. Home to a community of traditional artisans called chitrakaras, this village is known as an artist's village - every house is a studio and every resident an artist. Rich in arts and crafts, the village is best known for pattachitras - exquisite paintings executed on cloth.

Besides painting on cloth and artifacts made of wood and paper mache, the chitrakars also paint on walls, mostly in temples and religious institutions. Some of the finest examples of Orissan mural paintings can be seen in old temples such as the Biranchinarayan temple in Buguda and Jagannath temple at Dharakote which are said to be more than hundreds years old. However, this mural painting skill was gradually dying out, mainly due to lack of patronage and because artists preferred to use other mediums for their art works.

Hundreds of chitrakars dispersed in various parts of Orissa were contacted. Village meetings and discussions were held to secure community effort. Soon, the process of reviving the mural painting skills was underway. The chitrakaras identified in the various districts were invited to come and stay at Raghurajpur for one month and execute the murals.

The first step was a workshop on making lime plaster. Most artisans had forgotten the process of making traditional lime plaster using ingredients like sand, molasses, jute, curd, paneer, urad dal, bel fruit, etc. A lime mill was constructed for this purpose and participants were trained to make lime plaster.

Masons were selected and allotted walls for plastering. The house owners' permission to paint the walls was taken. Residents were happy to be a part of this project and their enthusiasm was clearly evident. At some places, old cement plaster was scraped off and replaced with a rich lime plaster. After the ground was ready, the sketches were made and then filled with natural pigments like geru (red ochre), hingula (red cinnabar), harital (orpiment), conch-shell white and lamp black.

In artisan households, womenfolk have been traditionally associated with the preparatory work for crafts. In this revival project, their job was to make paints using mineral and earth colours and plant gum binders. While crude cinnabar is ground to derive red, orpiment is the source for yellow, black is from the soot of an oil lamp and white is derived from conch shells. The colours used in patachitra paintings are also made in the same way.

Soon the walls were ablaze with a riot of colours. Themes of the paintings were selected carefully so as to represent the various types of mural paintings seen in different parts of Orissa. The aim was to convert the village into a living reference of the Orissan mural painting tradition.

Some of the paintings are replicas of paintings found in old temples of Orissa. Krishna Leela was copied from a temple at Deogarh and Gaja Uddharan was replicated from the Hanuman temple at Dharakote.

Raghurajpur has received a new look following this revival project. The exquisite paintings attract many visitors and so income from tourism has increased. Also this experiment has generated a fresh hope among artisans, as some of them have received work orders from visitors who appreciated their paintings.

Artisans can be commissioned to come and make a painting in your living or work place. Mural paintings can be commissioned at rates varying from Rs 250-350 per square feet, besides travelling and living expenses of the artisans. After your first contact with us we will put you in touch with the artist directly if you prefer.

For details on how to commission a mural painting, please contact us:

Mural Revival Project
Orissa Art Conservation Centre
State Museum Premises,
Bhubaneswar - 751014, Orissa.
Tel/Fax: 91-674-2432638


Source: The Encyclopedia of Intangible Cultural Heritage