Hindus have important pilgrimage spots -known that a devout Hindu ought to visit during his lifetime. The Jagannath temple of Puri on the East coast is one of them.
The shrine of Jagannath at Puri has been identified with Lord Krishna.
With the spread of the Krishna cult in Eastern India Jagannath came to be looked upon as Krishna.
The prevalent Orissa tradition does not list Krishna as one of Vishnu’s incarnations but revere him rather as the Supreme Lord of the universe and all other as his incarnations.
The visit of Ramanuja-a great saint of India to Puri gave great impact to the Vaishnava movement in Orissa.
Later Jayadeva’s poetry Gita-Gobinda became very popular and Krishna-lila became a favourite subject for artists all over the country. The pata painters of Orissa also painted the various episodes of Krishna’s life on a large canvas.
The artists of Orissa owe their origin of art to Jagannath cult and they viewed tha activity of painting the lord as 'seva' or service to the temple.
The most sophisticated work done by them is to produce pata paintings or the thia-badhia – temple plan.
This is a very popular theme for artists of Puri in which they paint various important deities and events of the Puri shrine, an important landmark of the town of Puri.
The center of this painting they painted an elongated tapering tower of the main shrine showing deities of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra. A panel on the top shows ten incarnation of Vishnu along with Garuda, Hanuman, Shiva and Brahma. Fighting of Rama and Ravana is also painted in many panels. Several other panels show the various activities of the main shrine.
This painting is also known as sankha-nabhi, because of the concept that the holy land of Puri is in the shape of a conch shell. The bright colours are used for this fine pata painting from Orissa and this tradition is still continuing and artists are painting this type of pata painting at Puri.
The term Pata has many connotations its most accepted meaning is however cloth.
The pata-chitras are done on pati, handmade canvas especially prepared by pasting together layers of cloth.
In these pata-chitra images reflects the same image- type of Lord Jagnath as in sculptures in the eleventh-century Puri temple.
These pata-chitras pursue Orissa’s regional iconography- long eyes, angular chin, pointed bird’s beak type raised nose and a robust look.
View all the Jagannath paintings in the collection here.
With excerpts from a note on facebook by Shri Sushil Mehra