This excellent ‘pata-chitra’ – a painting rendered on a piece of cloth, by Rabi Behera, represents twelve patterns traditionally followed for adorning the images of Krishna as Jagannathaji, his elder brother Balarama and sister Subhadra at Puri shrine, one of the principal seats of Krishna-cult. Such adornment, known as ‘shrangara’ of Jagannathaji, is one of the most significant rituals of the deity. Under the Pushti-marg, the path of worship that Acharya Vallabh had propounded, ‘shrangara’ of the divine images is part of the regular service offered to Jagannathaji. The painting illustrates twelve standard patterns of adorning the three images round the year – two of which, one the ‘Mangal-shrangara’, the early morning adornment, and the ‘Bada shrangara’ , that is, the day’s last adornment performed before deities go to bed are mandatory and regularly performed. Bada ‘shrangara’ is the last of the deity’s services performed every evening. Though it was the Pushti-marg that alternated worship by deity’s service, the ‘shrangara’ of Krishna’s presiding image at all ‘pithas’ – seats, Vrindavana, Nathadwara, Dwarika or Mathura, is now the globally accepted and pursued path of his worship. The painting contained within an elaborate lotus border makes use of a few colours, black, blue, grey, pink and white in particular, some in their basic tints, and the rest, mixed, but none of them, shaded.
The entire canvas space that the ‘patti’ or ‘pata’, a piece of textile toughened by using various hardening elements, sometimes also thin paper sheets pasted along its upper surface, affords, has been divided into twelve identically conceived and designed rectangular cubes of similar size. Each of these cubes are styled like a sanctum with shallow arched openings terminating into beautifully moulded pendentives and draped with light pinkish curtains collected artistically along the arches. Each of the twelve cubes enshrines the three deities, Krishna, who is Jagannatha, on the extreme left, Balarama, on extreme right, and sister Subhadra, in the centre. On left to Krishna is a representation of Sudarshana Chakra that symbolises the deities like Madan Mohan, Bhudevi and Vishwadhatri. The background in all shrines consists of dark black sky with stars scattered all around. Rabi Behera, one of the most celebrated artists of Orissa ‘pata-chitra’, who has accomplished this outstanding work of art, has displayed rare skill, for which he is widely known, in assimilating various elements, folk and classical. He has obtained fine details using softer colour-tones in representing the images of the deities exactly as they enshrine the holy sanctum as also the patterns of ‘shrangara’ as are observed round the year. and a few colours, black, blue, grey, pink and white in particular, some in their basic tints, and rest, mixed, but none of them, shaded. represents Krishna as Jagannatha, the enshrining deity of the worldwide venerated Puri shrine, one of the four major Vaishnava shrines of Krishna-cult.
Traditionally these twelve patterns of ‘shrangara’ are termed as ‘beshas’ – apparels, though used in wider perspective here the term means adornment of the deity to include even change in iconographic structuring of the images. Accordingly, as inscribed under each shrine the four ‘beshas’ in the upper register are Nagarjuna Besha, Rajarajeswara Besha, Padma Besha, erroneously inscribed as ‘Pamda’, and Suna Besha; in the middle register, Shraddha Besha, Radha Damodar Besha, Chandanalawi Besha, and Badasinhara Besha; and in the bottom register, Gajananana Besha, Nabanka Besha, Bamana Besha, and Abakasha Besha. In Nagarjuna Besha the faces of Jagannatha and Balarama are squarish and bearded while Subhadra’s is circular. Both, Jagannatha and Balarama are equipped with arrows – simple with pointed heads as also with tridents-heads. Jagannatha is also carrying a conch and a sword. In Rajarajeswara Besha and Padma Besha the faces of all three images are round though in Rajarajeswara Besha Jagannatha carries the conch whereas in Padma Besha he does not carry any. In Padma Besha, lotuses – padmas, have been widely used in adorning all three images. Completely different this ‘besha’ has only the representations of deities’ faces carried over four columns and lower halves are replaced by icons of four geese. In Suna Besha also the faces of all three deities are round and Jagannatha is represented as carrying the conch.
Adorned in white in Shraddha Besha all three images have squarish faces though towards the chin they are apsidal and the apex of Jagannatha’s image is flat while those of the other two are domed. The hands of all images seem to have been excluded. Not only the faces even the torsos of all three images in Radha Damodar Besha have been rounded, though in contrast all three image in Chandanalawi Besha are columns’ like upward raised. The apex of Jagannatha’s image is flat whereas those of other deities are domed. In Badasingara Besha all three faces are round and their headdresses are very colourful and different. In Gajanana Besha all three images have round faces though those of Jagannatha and Balarama are framed within squarish frames structured like elephant heads along trunk and large ears. In Nabanka Besha the faces are round but covered under temple-towers-like rising headdresses with mango leaves, their base, they appear to be a bit conical. The decorative column on the extreme left holds Lord Jagannatha’s conch. In Bamana Besha the faces are a perfect round contained in double rings. Lord Jagannatha has a Shiva-ling icon on his forehead and Balarama is carrying in his right hand an arrow, and in the left, a bow. In Abhkasha Besha the face of lord Jagannatha has been modeled like a square box, and those of Balarama and Subhadra, like inverted baskets. All three images are clad in white with white sashes which appear to be quite massive in size and different from sashes in all other Beshas. The images of Lord Jagannatha and Balarama have been modeled with arms but without hands.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet.
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