Born into an agrarian family in the small village of Ganailo, in District Jagatsinghpur of Odisha, Rabindra Behera's foray into the arts was the result of circumstance rather than choice. When still a student in Class 9 at the local school, Behera's village was wrecked by a flood. In the financial crisis that followed, he had no alternative but to drop out of school and take up a vocation. A cousin who worked at the State Institute for Development of Arts and Crafts in the capital city of Bhubaneswar, advised him to apply for one of the training programmes offered at the institute, as it would provide him with adequate skills to earn a livelihood.
Faced with a choice between studying pottery, woodwork, metalwork, stone carving and painting, Behera selected painting. "I had little affinity for the other crafts; drawing was the only activity I was familiar with and knew I had some talent for, so it was a logical choice."
After completing the initial training, he enrolled for the two year senior-level program at the institute. Graduating from the institute, Behera then worked under the tutelage of two gurus or senior pattachitra artists for 7-8 years, before branching off on his own.
Specialising in paintings in the traditional style on tussar silk and palm leaf with organic natural pigments, Behera is well-known amongst collectors in Delhi, West Bengal, Bangalore, Chennai and local fairs in Odisha. He also undertakes training programmes for younger generations of artists through the Development Commission Handicrafts, Ministry of textiles and craft demonstrations at local, national and international venues.
Behera has amassed a number of awards - a fellowship awarded by the Ministry of Tourism & Culture in 2000, the State Award in 2003, the Odisha Lalit Kala Academy award in 2007, National Merit Certificates in 2005 and 2006 as well as the National Award in 2008.