Unravel the warp and weft of RaghurajpurAn heritage village in Odisha, where every home doubles as an artist’s studio.
From a distance it just looks like a sleepy village. However, if you go there and you look like a tourist, you’ll be swarmed by a handful of villagers asking you to visit their home. Curious? Take a look and you will notice that the front rooms of most houses have been converted into handicraft shops. Raghurajpur is the only village in India where every family is engaged in one or the other craft.
Located close to the religious town of Puri, Raghurajpur is a village that tourists often tend to miss. There is no clear signage on the main road inviting you. So the tourists are the ones who have already heard about Raghurajpur or who are prodded by their enterprising tourist guides to take a little detour to discover this treasure house.
The small village, with barely 120 different houses, is a unique village in India. Ten artists awarded with national awards including the Padma Vibhushana belong to this village. Just like six state observers. The majority of them are craftsmen belonging to the Chitrakara caste, masters of Pattachitra, an art form dating back to 5 BCE.
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Only a few huts at the entrance to the village have shops, the rest serve as studios for the artisans. You will find craftsmen engaged in palm leaf carvings, stone or wood carving making, or making cow dung and paper mache toys, etc.
Interestingly, these artisans are not beaten by tourists. You can stand near them to admire their craftsmanship or click photos, but not even for a moment do they take their eyes off their calling to acknowledge your presence.
The history of Raghurajpur is equally interesting. Legend has it that a pilgrim’s journey was not considered complete unless a red stick of Puri and a Patachitra from Raghurajpur were purchased. While few know about Patachitra, fewer people know that Raghurajpur was once famous for Gotipua, the forerunner of the Indian classical dance form Odissi. It was here that the great Indian classical dancer Kelucharan Mahapatra, credited with the revival of the Odissi classical dance form, was born.
However, the village’s first brush with fame came literally a decade back. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) chose to develop Raghurajpur as Orissa’s first heritage village. Resultantly an outdoor theater, restaurant block, craft center and tourist lodge sprouted up amidst groves of coconut and palms. However, most of these structures only come to life during the annual Basant Utsav (Spring Festival).
In addition, INTACH has also trained some professionals to provide heritage walks to tourists. The government has also stepped forward to assist the artisans in creating market couplings. Designers are also adapting the art form to create contemporary, utilitarian products that suit the urban market.
Parampara Crafts, an umbrella organization with 30 self-help groups under it, also operates from the village. The rural museum it maintains in the village is a must visit. It houses paintings, palm leaf manuscripts, dhokra, cow dung toys, ganjapa (also called ganjifa), terracotta, stone and wood carvings, etc. The village also has a series of temples dedicated to Bhuasuni, the local deity and various Hindus. deities including Radha Mohan, Gopinath, Raghunath, Laxminarayan and Gouranga. A treasure trove of arts and crafts.
How to get there
Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar is about 60 km from Raghurajpur. Most of the leading airlines operate on this route. Puri, about 14 km away, is the nearest railhead.
By Road: Buses run between Bhubaneswar and Puri at regular intervals. Disembark at Chandanpur and hire a rickshaw or walk the remaining two kilometers.