Palm Leaf Writing
Away from the shops and bazaars, in some friendly Oriyan household or in a temple or at an astrologer's place, the ancient art of palm leaf writing still survives. Religious texts continue to be read out from palm leaf manuscripts rather than from printed books. Horoscopes, too, are traditionally written on palm leaves by professional horoscope makers known as nahakas. Palm leaf was considered so sacred that even after printing presses began operating in Orissa, important texts continued to be printed on the leaves instead of paper. The printing of New Year cards and wedding invitations on palm leaf is still popular in
The Talapatrachitras or the palm leaf engravings consist of frozen linear drawing as illustrations of manuscripts. In these engravings,
colours are muted and play a very minor part. Where colours are at all applied, they are just painted either to emphasize the inscriptions, or to fill up blank space. In
Orissa, manuscripts were written on palm leaves even during the
Mughal period when the paper was freely available.
In the limited space of the oblong palm leaf with a small width, human figures completed with details of hair style and dress, animals, flowers and trees are executed with great precision and beauty, the tool of this art is a sharp style and it needs a remarkably steady hand to be able to wield this tool on thin strip of leaf.