Etching and paintings on the palm leaf is one of the most ancient craft forms found in Orissa
as well as several other states in the country. Popularly known as Talapatrachitras in Orissa, it was the standard type of book in the state, until about a century ago. This exquisite art form was originated when written communication began. Sacred texts were penned on palm leaf manuscripts, before paper was discovered. Later decorations with images were done to this text to make it more attractive.
These manuscripts consisted of a series of leaves that were strung together and on which was written a text. In this unique style of etching, an iron stylus is held stationary while the leaf is moved to produce finely illustrated manuscripts. The leaves are prepared by drying, boiling and drying again and flattening before coating with shell. After making the writings, the grooves are rubbed with soot or powdered charcoal and white color is added with a brush. The leaflets are then strung together and placed between decorative covers made of wood.
The paintings and drawings usually capture the themes of mythological incidents; gods and goddesses, stories and incidents of Mahabharata, Ramayana and other epics are etched. The paintings and drawings also present excellent scenes of nature. The palm leaf etchings are treasured decorations of all Indian home.
Nowadays, palm leaf manuscripts were no longer used for books. However, the practice of etching pictures on palm leaves still remains for attracting tourists.