The history of painting in Orissa starts with the rock-shelter paintings and continues upto the present day. Some of the rock-shelter paintings, as at Vikram Khol do not, in the strict sense conform to painting for these are engraved forms on rock surface filled in with colour. It is not correct to term all the rock shelter paintings of Orissa as pre-historic, because there are certain historic paintings as at Manikmada which can be dated to the early historic period (300BC-100AD). Apart from the rock painting sites there are several drawings, cut marks resembling figures on rock surfaces at Digapahandi and Bramapur in the district of Ganjam and other places. However, with the available information, it can be asstered that Orissa can be grouped with other pre-historic paintings site of India like Singhanpur, Bhimbhetka, etc.
The tribal paintings and the folk paintings, only with varying social affiliations, justify the continuation of rock shelter painting tradition. But the continuum is disassociated from the original context of rock shelter paintings and is more of a decorative nature mixed with rituals. Though not forming a part of classical painting tradition, the tribal and folk painting contain several motifs which constitute the classical art tradition. This process of influences and cross influences not only exists among tribals, folk and classical paintings but also extends to the realm sculpture. This proves that no painting tradition has grown in isolation and Orissan painting is no exception to it. It has emerged out of the common Orissan art tradition which have existed from hoary past. Mural Painting
In India,the mural paintings are considered to be the oldest classical paintings from the point of their antiquity. In Orissa existence of mural is traced from the faded out pigment coatings in the caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri as noticed by sir John Marshall and supported by inscriptional evidences as mentioned in the Hathigumpha inscription of emperor Kharavela of the 1st century B.C.
The next available mural is on the ceiling of Ravanachhaya projecting rock-boulder at Sitabinji in the district of Keonjhar belonging to later Gupta period.This painting,the lone survival of its kind in the whole of eastern India,is attuned to the Ajanta style.Though there are certain basic difference which can be attributed to the local variations like laying of the ground for painting,provision of a painted inscription,etc.,the colour scheme and composition of the painting depict the plastic vigour which was the essence of the Ajanta style of paintings of the period.The lack of evidence fail to build up a connected history of paintings which otherwise would have started with the Jaina school of painting at Khandagiri and Udayagiri passing on to the Buddhist style and terminating in Saiva-Sakti and Vaishnva painting as is the case with the evolution of Orissan sculptural art.
The next phase of Orissan murals stand a gulf apart in time and depict a completely different style from the early plastic traditions.This phase is marked by a pronounced linear character and belong to a period between 17th and 20th centuries.The painting of Buddha Vijaya in the Jagamohana of Lakshmi temple inside the Jagannath temple complex at Puri and the paintings of Kanchi Vijaya said to have been in the Jagamohana of Jagannath temple at Puri.
Authentic evidence of the later style of mural paintings exists in the Biranchinarayana temple, Buguda, in the district of Ganjam; Srikurumum temple, Andhra Pradesh and Dadhivamana temple inside Koseleswar temple complex in the district of Keonjhar. Pata Painting
The Pata painting is an important aspect of Orissan painting which originated from the temple of Jagannath at Puri in the 12th century.This has grown and flourished with the spread of Jagannath temple under the patronage of Ganga kings,Suryavamsi Gajapatis and the kings of Bhoi dynasty.The Bhakti movement,which swept over Orissa in the 16th century was chiefly instrumental in popularising the theme of Radha and Krishna in pata painting displayed two major themes;one,the temple of Jagannath ,the deities of Jagannath,Balabhadra and Subhadra and the second,Radha-Krishna and their Lilas(plays).But these themes are so few that these are not adequate for an evaluation of thematic development of pata paintings.
The pata painting was basically designed to popularise the cult of Jagannath through their sale to millions of pilgrims visiting Puri.The word pata was significant relation with the material on which the painting is done and which is known as pati or pata.
The pata painting are also done on different media and on different formats.The most popular items are Ganjapa, Masks, Toys of Jagannath, Balabhdra, Subhadra and miniature of Jagannath temple. Although ganjapa is a secular item, the element of religiosity has been added with the introduction of Dasavatara ganjapa and the Ramayan ganjapa.
Chitrakaras, Dattamahapatras and Daitapatis are the artisans who execute patta paintings . While Dattamahapatra and Daitapatis are concerned with painting of the deities of the Jagannath, Balabhdra, Subhadra in the Jagannath temple, Puri, chitrakaras are the main community who are involved in patta paintings of various kinds in other places. In addition to these communities there is also another class of people known as patuas in Orissa.