Raghurajpur: Colorful stories in the dark

Kanu from Dasbhuja handicraft as Raghurajpur heritage village in Odisha showing his Pattachitra craft

Today, via this story, we don’t just want to share a memorable experience of viewing skilled artisans practice their arts in front of our eyes, but also have an important message. The place is Raghurajpur heritage village in Orissa/Odisha, around 14 kms from the temple town of Puri, the home of Lord Jagannath.

The village has 120 houses in 2 parallel lanes, where the artists practice, display and promote the ancient art of Pattachitra painting (known to date back to 5 BC) , tussar painting, palm leaf engravings, paper mache art and a lot more.

Here’s a quick glimpse at their work:

The abundance of talent possessed by the artists is very evident. What really amazes you is their attitude. For a moment, you forget that the place is actually their home. They welcome you inside with a smile, share their stories of success, achievement and struggle and leave you with a smile on your face. You are not forced to buy anything. They have pride in their work and are looking for appreciation of their craft.

While we made a mistake of only reaching the place by afternoon, we recommend you to visit in the morning. That way, you’ll have enough time to listen to the stories and the experiences that they share with love and enthusiasm.

On the other hand, staying back till sunset also confronted us with the realities of their lives. While the efforts of the Odisha government have been commendable in even setting up the village to preserve their heritage, some basic issues still remain. The place gets very dark after sunset, voltage fluctuation is common and mosquitoes abundant. The artists are always ready with a pack of Odomos for their guests. For the skill and the passion, the community definitely deserves a better standard of living.

Anyway, before it gets too preachy, sharing below a story which stayed with us.

The last one on the right lane

There is an artist named Kanhu, who walked up to us at the entrance of the village and was very persuasive that we visit his home before leaving. Initially we found him quite pushy, but eventually we budged and asked him to lead the way.

It was a rather longish walk to his place, and he took the opportunity to explain the reason behind his persistence. The village is accessible via a single road. Once you reach the entrance, it splits into two. Based on our muscle memory, most Indians take the left lane first, which eventually leads to a dead-end. By the time a visitor walks back, he’s either too tired or overwhelmed with the experience. There’s no incentive to check out the other lane. Even if a few do explore the other lane, people don’t go up-to the other end again, where his house is. So, he typically gets the least number of walk-in visitors (by default) and has to wait at the entrance to welcome guests.

Why visitors never reach the houses at the end of the right lane

Kanhu specially asked us to “put him on Google maps” so that he starts getting more walk-in visitors. The place is call Dasbhuja handricrafts. You will already find a “Dasabhuja handicraft” marked on Google maps, but the position is not correct. Just follow the below pointer on Google maps to reach him.

Alternatively, once you reach the village entrance, take the right lane, walk up to the end and look for the below person and his house on the right side. If you reach him after reading this, please do let us know in the comments.

You can find his contact details at the end of this page. Sharing below another example of art which he created right in front of our eyes.

A request for our readers

The covid pandemic and the lockdowns have hit the meagre businesses of these artists hard. More than encouragement, it’s a matter of survival for them in these times. Therefore, we request everyone who reads this to explore their art and actually buy stuff from them. Most of the items are bright and vibrant which will add color to your homes (and theirs too). They’re a good conversation starter too.

We are sharing the contact details of a few artists below. They are easy to reach on phone, share their catalog over WhatsApp and ship across India. The prices start at as less as Rs.100 for the smaller knick-knacks.

Everything adds-up for them in the end.

We ourselves bought a few items which have turned out amazing. I write this looking at the pen stand on my desk, bought from Kanhu.

Raghurajpur artist contacts

*We have no economic interests or affiliations with any of the artists. We also take no responsibility and bear no liability for the costs, quality and the experience. Please use your best judgement.

Kanhu Charan Behera from Dasabhuja Handicrafts:

Alok Ranjan Sahoo from Sudarshan Handicrafts:

Do let us know in the comments below if you are planning to visit Orissa. We might be able to help you with your travel plans, accommodation suggestions and the general itinerary for places like Puri, Bhubaneshwar, Konark and Chilka Lake.

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