“I Used To Save My Pocket Money To Buy Colours And Brush,” Says Puspanjali Rao!


A painter and Pattachitra expert, Puspanjali has been doing her best to promote the Pattachitra tradition across India and abroad despite several hurdles her way!

“I used to draw pictures and make paintings in many of my friends’ notebooks when I was a child,” says Puspanjali Rao even as she adds that she had no idea that a childhood hobby would eventually turn into her passion and profession.

A known name in the field of art and culture in Odisha, Puspanjali has been striving hard to promote the Pattachitra tradition, her work having travelled all across the country and abroad. Although due to financial constraints, it was only for a year that she managed to take a training course in Pattachitra tradition in 1996, her sincere practice over the years has made her an expert today.

In 2003, Puspanjali organised her first workshop with five students and named it as ‘Puspanjali Arts.’ And this name continues to remain with her as she has many more students learning from her about pattachitra, fine arts and portrait painting today. She has also been doing some exquisite pattachitra art on sarees, which have a huge demand. Today, Puspanjali gets plenty of saree orders from within the state and outside.

Despite many challenges, Puspanjali has carved a niche for herself with her sincere determination and hard work. However, she believes that things started moving for her positively when she joined the Puri Art Society in 2004 and later collaborated with Italian artist Tarshito. Together with Tarshito, she also created one of the largest paintings ever, the fantastic ‘Rath Yatra with Women Warriors’ in 2008.

Currently, Puspanjali plans to incorporate Pattachitra designs in as many things as possible to popularise this traditional form of art in a much better way.

Excerpts from an interview with MCL:

Tell us a bit about your journey in this field.

My love for art started when I was only three years old. I used to draw and paint even before I joined school. Then, one day when I was in Class I, I participated in a painting competition, but wasn’t able to secure any position. At that time, I promised myself to do something exceptional in the painting field in future so that everybody will appreciate me. As I grew up, I nurtured painting as my all-time hobby but I wanted to do more.

After my higher secondary, I joined a ‘fine arts’ class since I had no formal training in fine arts or painting.  But my life changed in 1996 when I took admission for a one year course of ‘Pattachitra’ at Sun-Crafts in Puri. It was only then that my hobby transformed into my profession. Since then, I have only grown and improved as an artist though I believe I have a long way to go.

You weren’t formally trained until 1996. What difference has it been for you, before and after the training?

There has been a great difference. Previously, painting was only my hobby. But after I did the Pattachitra course, my life took a drastic turn. I was offered a job in Sun-Crafts after the course was over, and I accepted it. I had made up my mind to pursue my hobby as my career.I worked there from 1997 to 2003. Then I organised a small workshop with five students and then there was no looking back. Now I am a professional Pattachitra and fine arts artist. Also, lately, I have been doing saree designing.

How was the experience working with Italian artist Tarshito?

Work experience with Tarshito has been really amazing. I am still working with him on regular intervals. He came to me on December 5, 2004 and we collaborated to work on the theme of ‘Warrior of Love’. When he told me the topic, I gave him some rough sketches that I had made. He liked them very much and we successfully completed the project. I wasn’t able to properly speak English then. But for him, language wasn’t a barrier. This thought touched my heart.

Again his motive was to blend east and west culture together thereby creating master pieces. Tarshito aka Nicola Strippoli used modern figures instead of the traditional Pattachitra motifs. He told me to paint the modern figures in a traditional Pattachitra style. I have thus learnt a lot of things from him.

Have you experienced struggle in your journey so far?

Yes, of course. There is no success without struggle. My family’s financial background wasn’t good at all during my childhood. Then, I used to get 50 paise as pocket money. But I never used to waste the money by eating or buying any useless thing. I used to save it for future. Actually, I wanted to buy chart paper and paints to pursue my interest. During those days, a chart paper would cost Rs 2.50, a brush around Rs 5 and a colour box at least Rs 15. So, I used to make it a point to save my pocket money, compromising the urge to buy anything else.

What other hobbies do you possess other than painting and designing?

Oh! I love singing. That apart, I like to make new friends. Also, I love to travel to different places and roam around. But right now as time doesn’t permit and I have been quite busy in my life both personally and professionally, I am unable to follow my heart and travel.

Have your in-laws been supportive in your journey?

Yes, definitely they have been very supportive towards me and my job. It is their trust and enthusiasm that makes me more energetic and dedicated towards my work. They have given me the space I want for my profession.

From where have you drawn inspiration to go ahead in your path?

Sudarsan Pattnaik is the person whom I idolise and get inspiration from. He is the best example of how a person without a strong family and financial background grows into a successful and well known personality. He has also faced a lot of struggle, but has never given up. Success never comes in a day. I follow his footsteps and hope to become as successful and known as he is.

What challenges are you facing currently in your career?

The challenges that I face at present are much more difficult than they used to be earlier since I am married now. I have to give time to my six-year-old daughter, husband and other family members, do the required household chores while also taking out time for my profession. This becomes very hectic but I cannot leave all the family work to pursue my profession. However, I manage everything quite well and don’t let either my personal or professional life suffer.

What has been the role of your art teachers and mentors in your life?

There are three persons I want to give credit to. The first person is my fine arts teacher, Debendra Das, who recognised the potential in me and encouraged me to find creativity in everything; second is Ramachandra Moharana, who taught me all the traditional designs, skills and techniques of Pattachitra and lastly Gajendra Moharana, the owner of Sun-Crafts who has always given me the confidence and determination to create wonderful and spectacular paintings.