The vibrant arts culture and work of hundreds of traditional Odishan artisans is a major reason for visiting this area of India. Odisha’s arts and crafts include intricate textiles with decoratively painted cloth, applique work and tie-die ikat. Also delicate silver filigree, terracotta, palm leaf painting and sand art.
Raghurajpur, 14km north of Puri, is a small village of just two streets of thatched brick houses. Their facades are decorated with mural paintings of geometric patterns and mythological scenes. These are the homes of over 300 artists as each family is involved in arts and crafts. The village is famous for its pattachitra work using a cotton cloth coated with a mixture of gum and chalk and then polished. With eye-aching attention and a very fine brush, artists mark out animals, flowers, gods and demons, which are then illuminated with bright colours.
Another of Odisha’s arts and crafts, chitra pothi, involves etching images onto dried palm-leaf sections with a fine stylus. Then the incisions are dyed with a wash of colour. Others produce wood and stone carvings or papier mache toys and masks.
The road between Jeypore and Sambalpur passes through a region rich in handicrafts. Many local master craftspeople are recognised nationally and internationally. Down the back lanes of Kotpad, 40km north of Jeypore, is a thriving home-based fabric-dyeing industry. Along the lanes you’ll see ropes of thread in a rich range of colours from reds and burgundies to browns laid out to dry.
The Costa Pada area in Baripalli is where you can discover how tie-dye ikat textiles are created. Skeins of threads, separated into cords, are wrapped around frames. Painstakingly, these cords are then tied in red cotton to mark out the dyeing pattern. Strips of rubber are then wound around to protect the undyed areas. Dyed and dried, the threads are then woven on the many looms you can see through open doorways. There’s also a thriving terracotta industry here.