The murals need not necessarily be painted on the walls directly, but could be applied on cloth or paper as well and later hung on the wall.
The murals of the Osakothi shrines are meant to house 33 times 10 million deities. At least 10 to 20 images and a maximum of a hundred gods, goddesses, heroes of epics and legends are depicted as also the attendants and relatives of the divinities.
Iconographically the icons of Mangladevi, Ispara (or Shiva), Durga, Kali, Chhinmasta, Parvati, Saraswati, Ganga and Jamuna, Thakurani goddesses, their daughters and sons, Pancha Pandva, Bhima, Gajabhima, Kamdhenu, Hanuman, Mayaruge (the deceiving golden deer), Dhoba-Dhobani, etc. are depicted as also warriors, birds, animals, flowers and other floral designs.
Who are the osakothi painters?
The chitrakaras comprise of professionals who support themselves by their craft that often include, besides paintings on walls, cloth and paper, the production of toys and playing cards, regular service for the Jagannatha temples, and connections with the royal families; figurative painting is their profession and is practised from an early age.
The painters from the priest group are mostly the poor Brahmins and Mali—the latter are priests of lower social ranking without much landed property, who make a living from offering religious and ceremonial services. Most of them are Shiva priests.
The third group, the Bauri painters, are non literate farmers or members of other low income groups, and have no religious or artistic background. They are essentially the locals.
Several families of chitrakara artisans are settled in the region where Osakothi paintings are done.
(Dr Kailash Kumar Mishra is an anthropologist associated with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi.)