Mural art in India is as old as the rock art of the tribals. From the rock art, evolved the festive art popularly known as the rangoli. Across India, traditionally eco-friendly colours are used for creating beautiful rangoli patterns. The designs, theme & raw materials may vary as per region. Some are geometric, some work on dots while some are folk art. Odisha has its own speciality in this regard, known as Jhoti, Chita & Muruja art. Muruja (ମୁରୁଜ) art is created on floor with powdered rice or white limestone powder. Jhoti (ଝୋଟି) represents the happiness, positivity and liveliness of a household, and is intended to welcome Debi Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Jhoti art is created on floor with raw rice paste whereas Chita (ଚିତା) is same but executed on walls. The three terms shall be used interchangeably in this article.
The history of traditional Jhoti art in Odisha is not quite clear, but since its directly linked with our Jagannath Culture, it can be termed as quite ancient. Let’s consider the evolution since 12th century when the present Sri Jagannath’s Temple was constructed. There is mention of Jhoti/Chita in Adikabi Sarala Dasa’s Mahabharata. During ancient times, Kalinga was known for its intricate temple mural work executed by skilled sculptors. The female folks were barred from venturing out & Jhotis were best in expressing their creativity. Mud houses with sanctified walls & floor with cow dung & gerua (red clay) layers enhances the beauty of Jhotis. Jhoti work has no colour varieties but just white, no brush used but just three fingers of females of an Odia household are enough to create beautiful Jhotis. Be it festivity time – Rajja Parba, Galalaxmi Puja, holy Kartika (Oct-Nov) month, Margasira (Nov-Dec) month, Dipabali or during any auspicious occasions like marriages, the need for making Jhotis are felt because without it, the occasion is incomplete.
Jhoti & Chita can be divided into two categories. While one is based on classical art approach starting from traditional colour selection, predefined pattern, use of geometry, specific diameter to theme which is mostly religious. The other one is the folk art with nature as theme & liberty in execution. Laxmipada Jhoti is normally associated with Margasira month puja, but there are varieties beyond it. It includes Gadapadma Jhoti (Magha month Jhoti using gada & padma as motifs), Chhandapidha Padma Jhoti (criss-crossed lines joined to make a lotus Jhoti), Ananta Brata Mandala -Anantanaga jhoti with sankha, chakra, gada, padma motifs made during Bhadrab month’s Ananta Puja, Belapatri Mandala (during Mahashibaratri), Sankha Mandala (Dola Purnima) etc. Jhoti created during the festivities are traditional whereas Jhoti for ‘Gruha Shanti’ (protect the house from evils) puja are vastu inspired.
Below mentioned are some of the popular traditional Jhoti/Chita/Muruja patterns in Odisha –
Kundala Padma କୁଣ୍ଡଳ ପଦ୍ମ – Drawn on the occasion of Guru Purnima, Byasa Purnima etc.
Dasa Mandala Padma ଦଶମଣ୍ଡଳ ପଦ୍ମ – Mahalaxmi is seated here on this drawn lotus jhoti
Chakra Padma ଚକ୍ର ପଦ୍ମ – This padma is drawn on Jamastami day to worship Sri Krushna
Lata Padma ଲତା ପଦ୍ମ – Drawn on the rice swing in the paddy stock room
Sinsadhana Chita ଶିଂଷାଧାନ ଚିତା – Drawn on the walls during Manabasa Thursdays in holy Margasira month
Boita Chita ବୋଇତ ଚିତା – Odia ladies draws this chita near the chaura at the late night of Kartika Amabashya. And Mahalaxmi is worshipped after taking bath & wearing new sarees & applying eye collyrium
Sankha Padma ଶଙ୍ଖ ପଦ୍ମ – This lotus chita is termed auspicious if drawn during marriage or thread ceremony
Kalei Gada Chita କଳେଇ ଗଦା ଚିତା – This chita is drawn with pithau near the rice threshing area/floor
Ketaki Pakhuda Padma କେତକୀ ପାଖୁଡା ପଦ୍ମ – This lotus is drawn on the doors during fourth month’s Amabashya Thursdays after applying gerua colour on the wood.
Sua Purna Kumbha ଶୁଆ ପୂର୍ଣ୍ଣକୁମ୍ଭ -This full kalash chita is drawn in pithau on the occasion of worshipping Sathi Debi on birthday celebrarions
Padma Marei Chita ପଦ୍ମ ମରେଇ ଚିତା – After the paddy is harvested, its kept inside a hollow storage made of plaited straw & this chita is drawn on it
Dhana Ghara Chita ଧାନଘର ଚିତା – Drawn on Thursdays in front of paddy storage room after applying gerua where chita is to be drawn
Pancha Prajapati Padma ପଞ୍ଚପ୍ରଜାପତି ପଦ୍ମ – Drawn with pithau on the doors after applying gerua paste during Margasira Manabasa Thursdays
Basudeba Thada Chita ବାସୁଦେବ ଠାଦଚିତା is drawn during Ashwini Krushnapakhya days
Matshya Purna Kumbha ମତ୍ସ୍ୟ ପୂର୍ଣ୍ଣକୁମ୍ଭ – Drawn on the gift pot taken by married daughters while going to in-laws house
Chudi Padma ଚୁଡ଼ି ପଦ୍ମ – Drawn on Thursdays in front of the kitchen ware container
Punjimachha Chita ପୁଞ୍ଜିମାଛ ଚିତା – Drawn on the badi jae pot while married daughter leaves for in-laws house
Rekha Padma ରେଖା ପଦ୍ମ – Drawn in front of house & outside prayer room
Thikiri ଠିକିରି – Drawn in font of prayer room during fourth month Thursdays
Satara Kothi Pharua Mandala ସତରକୋଠି ଫରୁଆ ମଣ୍ଡଳ – Drawn in front of Durga idol on Maha Nabami Day
Kadhha Padma କଢ ପଦ୍ମ – Drawn during Rajja festival in front of house
Gada Padma ଗଦା ପଦ୍ମ – Painted near the chaura in the month of Magha
Hansa ra Dadhinauti ହଂସର ଦଧିନଉତି – Drawn on the gift pot carrying phena sakara that goes with the newly wed
Kabata Padma କବାଟ ପଦ୍ମ – Drawn ion the main door of the house on Thursdays during rainy season
Darpana Mandala ଦର୍ପଣ ମଣ୍ଡଳ – Painted with five colours on Janmastami
Ananta Brata Mandala ଅନନ୍ତ ବ୍ରତ ମଣ୍ଡଳ – Drawn with five colours to celebrate Ananta Brata
Chhanda Pidha Padma ଛନ୍ଦ ପିଢ଼ା ପଦ୍ମ – Painted near the chaura on Naga chaturthi
Gochhanda Padma ଗୋଛନ୍ଦ ପଦ୍ମ – Drawn inside the cowsheds on Thursdays
Sankha Mandala ଶଙ୍ଖ ମଣ୍ଡଳ – Drawn on the floor of the room of worship & in front of house during Dola Purnima
Kathi Padma କାଠି ପଦ୍ମ adorn the prayer room on the occasion of Mahalaya
Mandala flower ମଣ୍ଡଳ ପଦ୍ମ is drawn on the floor during Laxmi Puja
Matshya Padma ମଛ୍ୟ ପଦ୍ମ – On special occasions like marriage & festivities at the makeshift houses for guests
Belapatri Mandala ବେଲପତ୍ରୀ ମଣ୍ଡଳ is mandala is painted on Shiba Ratri day
(Source: Twitter post by Sharanajata Mishra, check his short video by clicking the link below)
Odisha can be termed as Mini India since the culture, food, dialect changes as we move from one place to another. The same is noticed in Jhoti making too in which the coastal belt pattern is different from western belt. Southern Odisha’s Jhoti has Southern India esp. Andhra’s dot pattern influence while Northern Odisha’s pattern is slightly different. In Western belt, raw materials like gerua, powdered limestone & paddy hay are burnt & mixed with cow dung to create a special colour for making Jhoti. But one thing is common & that’s the use of Laxmipada (Debi Laxmi’s footprints) & lotus especially during Manabasa Gurubara Puja. The tribals in Odisha have been making beautiful murals on their house walls & floors to keep it clean. Santhal tribes of Mayurbhanj are best artists in this art form called Idtal, which is not exactly Jhoti work, but totally different. Lanjia Saura tribes of Rayagada & Gajapati district are also great artists in tribal mural painting.
Jhoti & Chita are used as synonyms but the basic difference lies in where or in which medium it is used. While Jhoti is created on floor & Chita is created on walls. The origin of the terms ae not so clear, but it’s said that Chita art attracts the mind (chitta) & are mostly in continuation on walls whereas Jhoti is disintegrated & created by hand drawing & sprinkling (chhata chhati evolved as Jhoti) on floor, doorjambs, around tulasi chaura, courtyard etc. The common motifs used in the artwork are lotus flowers, conch shell, the kumbha, peacocks, elephant, fish, mango pattern, and other floral and geometrical designs.
The speciality of Odia households Jhoti is the usage of three fingers & hand sprinkling. Initially only fingers were used, but now Sahada branch brush, bamboo, coconut leaf stick, grass broom brush, cloth etc. are used as brush. Jhoti patterns are spherical mandals in states like Odisha, West Bengal, Assam & Bengal whereas in southern states, it’s more of geometric patterns of joining dots (bindu) with straight lines (rekha) & creating beautiful triangles, squares to uneven patterns known as Kollam, Muggu, Pookalam etc. Keralites during Onam, organises competition called Pookalamalswaram i.e. flower decoration in the patterns of rangoli. It’s said that dried rice powder is used in Kollam to feed the birds & small insects. The rangoli known as Alpana (derived from alipan) in Bengal & Assam & is used esp. during Durga Puja & Laxmi Puja & other festivities. Alpana depicts mostly flower buds, flower & leaves, laxmipada motif with mostly white & minimal use of other colours. Jhoti is quite prominent in Buddhism also especially in Tibetan culture.
The semi liquid Jhoti paste is prepared from raw (arua) rice paste known as pithau. If Jhoti is to be applied at night hours, the raw rice is soaked in water for around 30 min to make it soft for grinding preferably in a stone grinder. It’s made into paste manually & water is added a bit as per need, but should not be too watery or else the Jhoti may not stick to the floor. Alternatively, Muruja made from raw (arua) dried rice powder or from dhala khadi pathar (white limestone) can be used. Some even use, khadi pathar (white limestone) to directly draw the Jhoti patterns. For Chita making, just add extra water a bit. One thing to make sure is to clean the house floor & make it dry before applying Jhoti because applying Jhoti is as equal to offering puja which is done after cleansing the puja area or house. Drawing of such design needs a lot of skill and practice. The liquid or powder is held between the tips of the thumb and the forefinger, and is allowed to fall delicately through them to form lines and patterns which are a delight to the eye testifying to the innate skill of the practitioners who are generally women.
Jhoti is a dying folk art form which the new age daughters & daughter in laws needs to learn & carry on. Previously, the art was passed on from generation to generation, then came books & now YouTube. Whatever be it, but one should not resort to pasting plastic stickers or using readymade frames for making Jhoti. Or else, a time will come when Jhoti can only be seen in images & in museums. The main hindrance now is thatched houses getting converted into cement houses. The urban apartments & private house floors with tiles & marbles have no space for Jhoti work, Further, the rampant use of colourful artificial muruja should be replaced with natural &eco-friendly colours like brick/gerua powder, green colour powder from dried green leaves, yellow from turmeric/marigold petals, black from burnt coconut shell etc. One of the effective ways to safeguard the art of Jhoti making is organising Jhoti making competitions. Social organisations like Sambhabana are organising Jhoti making competition titled Sreshtha Odiani Pratijogita between 1st & 14th April as apart of Odia New Year Celebrations. And, it’s nice to notice that the state govt is using the public walls in places like Bhubaneswar to paint traditional Jhotis as part of its beautification drive. This will certainly create an awareness & support for Jhoti. Have seen malls, restaurant & hotels creating beautiful Jhotis in their entrances during festivities & stall openings to greet the visitors. Overall these are the good signs that Jhoti making culture is here to stay despite cultural shift & changes.
Reference: Additional inputs by Chintamani Biswal & Sharanajata Mishra