Rabindra Behera executes ‘Wellness Flower’, in a traditional rendering of the lotus on dried palm leaves, a ‘pattachitra’. Pattachitra painting historically developed around religious centres in Odisha, like Konark and Puri, and recalls the ancient murals of the region. Finely detailed, these works were created on layers of primed cloth or 'patta', and were originally used as objects of worship on days when the temples were inaccessible because the idols were being bathed, or as migrant shrines carried by pilgrims. Behera belongs to a secondary tradition, in which the entire composition is rendered on dried palm leaves. Thick leaves, which are less likely to crumble while drying, are cut into flat rectangular slats or pattas of the desired size and dried. These pattas are then stitched together with thin thread, and knotted at intervals of a few inches such that they remain firmly bound but can be folded into a compact pile. The size of the completed pattachitra depends on how many pattas are joined together. This particular work is exceptionally large, spanning 9 ½ feet x 9 ½ feet. Rising from the mire to unfurl as a beautiful blossom, the lotus is widely believed to symbolise purity and creation. Embodying cosmic harmony, it is a microcosm of the universe, its heart, the womb of the world. The thousand-petalled lotus, a metaphor for the gradual unfolding of the consciousness on its path towards enlightenment, is a particularly potent marker of the culmination of, or the initiation, into a journey of the body or mind. It is from this rich tradition that Behera draws on, for his work. Inspired by the curatorial brief, he has created “a large thousand-petalled lotus, each petal of which, contains the image of an apsara, the celestial dancers and handmaidens to the gods.” Leaning in for a closer inspection, one notices that despite the similarity in their attire and coiffure, each figure is different. Some of the curvaceous nymphs play flutes, cymbals or drums; other are depicted as though dancing with abandon, and still others stand still, their palms clasped in greeting. The heart of the lotus is inscribed with two overlapping triangles that intersect to form a hexagon. Derived from the cosmic diagrams or mandalas of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist spiritual traditions, the form marks the abode of enlightenment, the pure lands one may arrive in, after surmounting the desire and attachment of the material world. In both Hindu and Buddhist tantric philosophy, the overlapping triangles represent the sexual and spiritual union of male and female energies, and the reconciliation of polarities to arrive at a state of oneness. The forms, once drawn, are then etched into their leaf with a sharp stylus or iron needle. The delicacy of the palm leaf and the dense, miniature forms requires remarkable precision on the artist’s part. Black ink is rubbed over the drawing such that the grooves of the incised areas absorb the dye. The excess ink is wiped off the palm leaf surface, leaving the black tracery of the etched design on the cream green-brown surface of the palm leaf. “With the 1000 petals of the lotus and the 1000 celestial dancers contained within it, we extend a manifold welcome to the jaatris (visitors). Swagatam, Swagatam, Swagatam,” says Behera.