The paintings of Orissa date as far back as the prehistoric era when the primitive man would sculpt images on the walls of the caves and fill them with color. The origin of these rock-shelter paintings is apocryphal. While the Vikram Khol paintings date back to the prehistoric era, the Manikmada paintings belong to the historic era that spans between 300 BC and 100 AD. Several crude drawings or paintings resembling human figures have been discovered on the surface of rocks located at Digapahandi and Bramapur in Ganjam district.
The tribal and folk paintings of Orissa illustrate the bucolic culture of the state. Although not a part of the quintessential classical art, this decorative craft comprises of several striking motifs that bears a close semblance to the classical art form. None of the numerous art forms that have mushroomed in Orissa have grown and prospered into a flourishing art in isolation. A close look at the history of these rural art forms divulges that all of them have been considerably impacted by some cross cultural influence as well as Orissa’s canescent past of traditional crafts.
The splendid mural paintings, one of the oldest classical art forms in India have also been sighted in the Udaygiri and the Khandagiri caves of Orissa. The Hathigumpha inscriptions of the monarch Kharavela that date back to the 1st century BC also testify the existence of the murals. The Pata paintings whose origins can be traced to Puri’s Jagganath Temple is also another archetypal art form of Orissa.