The word pattachitra is reclaimed from the Sanskrit word pata, usually means a cloth piece, Chitra means painting or picture. . The subject matter of Patta paintings is limited to religious themes. The stories of Rama and Krishna are usually depicted on the pattas. “Rasa Lila”, “Vastra Haran”, “Kaliya Dalan” are some of the recurring themes of Patta art. Besides mural paintings, miniature paintings, Pattas are now used as wall hangings. Lot of craftsmen skill and hard labor is required to execute fine patachitra. . Elements of folk and sophisticated art and craft characterise each finely executed patachitra.
In the famous exquisitely carved Jagannath temple, an annual ritual has given birth to a treasured art form. Three paintings on specially treated cloth or patas are prepared by the temple painter and hung inside the sacred precincts of the temple. Originating as a ritual, patas developed over the years, as a distinct school of painting executed by the chitrakar (artist) community. Blood red, red ochre, lamp black, yellow, white and indigo blue sometimes offset each other, sometimes blend to form patachitras in the skilled hands of talented chitrakars who follow in the footsteps of their forefathers.
The chitrakars live and practice their hereditary art in Puri and in two villages on its outskirts-Raghurajpur and Dandshahi. In Raghurajpur, there are close to fifty families of pata painters. Each of them has a family sketchbook handed down from generation to generation. Gods and Goddesses, the lilas (fanciful but allegorical activities) of Lord Krishna, legends and animals, are all depicted in the sketchbooks. These books are the chitrakars most valuable possessions and are worshipped along with the family gods. Besides pata paintings, the chitrakars also make unique, circular playing cards known as ganjifa which are popular in villages all over Orissa.