Heritage village of Odisha, Raghurajpur | Milaap

Heritage village of Odisha, Raghurajpur

Working with Milaap, I travelled from Bangalore to Bhubaneshwar in an Air Asia flight. In front of me, there was this travel magazine. Looking out for interesting things in Odisha, I happened to see a two-liner mention of a place. Place named Raghurajpur. One boring Sunday I planned a visit there with Dillip and Prathap with them acting as local guides.

Raghurajpur is a small village around 15 km from Puri and 50 km from Bhubaneswar. From Puri, you have frequent buses to Chandanpur. Looking around, a signboard welcomes you saying “Heritage village Raghurajpur”. From here a kilometre walk, you reach the village. The artistic village is nothing but a street with around 50 houses on each side of it, surrounding a temple. Though small it is the place were major of Odisha’s art and dance forms revered.

Passing by the streets of Raghurajpur

Raghurajpur is famous for different types of paintings like Pattachitra (a painting done on a specially prepared canvas called “Patti”), Thalachitra( a carving done on palm leaves and filling it with black colour), Tussar( a traditional painting done on a cotton cloth). All these paintings are done on stories of major Hindu mythological epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and others. These paintings are sent to the famous ‘Puri Jagannatha temple’ to decorate the rath.

Tussar, Pattachitra and Thalachitra

The artisans also create various forms of paper mache. These are majorly natural objects like a human face, elephant face, parrots etc. Also, the painting is made on bottles, coconut and areca nut.

Paper mache and other crafts

Apart from this, the village is famous for its unique Odissi dance form called ‘Gotipua’.  It has been performed in Orissa for centuries by young boys, who dress up as women to praise Jagannath and Krishna. The dance is executed by a group of boys who perform acrobatic figures inspired by the life of Radha and Krishna. The dance form is a mixture of Odissi classical dance and Mahari style(which was once devoted by Devadasis, to Lord Jagannatha). Raghurajpur is known for Gotipua dance troupes from centuries. The traditional school of Gotipua is one to be seen in the area.

Kelucharan Mohapatra, a legendary Indian classical dancer, guru, and exponent of Odissi dance was from this village. In his youth, he performed Gotipua. Later in his life, he did extensive research on Gotipua and Mahari style, which lead him to restructure Odissi dance. He was the first to be awarded Padma Vibhushan from Odisha.
Famous school of Raghurajpur were Gotipua troupes are made

Every house in Raghurajpur is an art gallery by itself. From elders to children most are artists in this village. They get specially trained for 6 to 7 years to understand the intricacies and become an artist. Such is their dedication.

Artisans working

There are many national awardees in this village. I was fortunate to meet one of them, Shri. Lakshmidhar Subudi. He received a Kala Puraskar award from Former President of India Shri. Pranab Mukherjee, for his Thalachitra art of Krishna Leela. The art took him 18 months to complete, such is their detail of the art.

National award winner Shri. Lakshmidhar Subudi and his Krishna Leela art

Speaking to one of the local artisans, he says,"These days the art form has got commercialized. The artists have adapted to the modern society and their needs. They paint things the customer wants, The dance form Gotipua has also been a fusion now. Ultimately it is the struggle for bread and butter".

The Government of Odisha recognised Raghurajpur as a Heritage village and sanctioned few crores to revive the village making it tourism hot spot. The artisans were told to paint their house walls and display their craft materials to attract tourists. The artists have done the painting of their houses and they display their crafts. Though the declaration happened 2 years back the money sanctioned from the Government is still to be utilised here.
Heritage villagers

The artisans here from each house eagerly wait for a tourist to arrive, see their paintings, hoping them to buy some of it, for their living. There is a need to revive the complete infrastructure and tourism around the village and to recognise the wonderful artists in the village. After all, it is our own culture, our own heritage and our own good people of Raghurajpur.