Etymology: The origin of the ‘Manjusha’ is associated with many co-relating folktales and deities. More literally, ‘Manjusa’ is the Sanskrit word for a box.
Origin: Manjusha is the ancient folk art of Ang Pradesh which is presently known as Bhagalpur city of Bihar which can be dated back to the 7th Century, but it thrived in the years between 1931-1948.
Location: Manjusha paintings originated from ancient ‘Angapradesh’, which currently engulfs parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.
Relevance: Manjusha paintings are cemented on the folklore involving the legend of ‘Bihula-Bishari. These were paintings drawn on boxes which were used by devotees to store ritualistic items for ‘Bishari Puja’. Another ritual that highlight’s the Manjusha paintings is where the groom is expected to apply vermillion powder or ‘sindoor’ to all four Bisaharis and only then can he join his bride to the ‘Mandap’.
Significance: It is believed that Manjusha art started as a result of the flora and fauna that exist around the region of Bhagalpur. The Bihula-Bishahari story also illustrates the immediate steps one should take if bitten by a snake, which touches upon the importance of Ayurveda.
Culture and Societies: Earlier, this art was produced by only two families, the Kumbhakar community would create pots or ‘kalash’ and decorate them with Manjusha paintings, whereas the Malakars would make Manjusha structures and adorn them with Manjusha motifs.
Religious significance: The Kalash and temple-structured boxes are worshipped during the Bishahari puja as they believe that worshipping the deity would empower them with her strength and protection. Especially, women pray to Bihula for their spouse’s protection and good health.
Style: Manjusha paintings only use three colours, pink, green, and yellow. The most important and defining factor is its borders, which are filled with patterns of leaves, triangles, and snakes.
Central motifs: This art form is centrally based on mythological folktales and the motifs, such as ‘Padmavati’, ‘Mynah Bisahari’, ‘Dhothila Bhavani’, ‘Maya/Manasa Bisahari’, ‘Jaya Bisahari’, ‘Chando Saudagar’, and the ‘Kalash’ are depicted largely.
Image Courtesy: manjushakala.in
NGO Disha Gramin Vikas Manch and NABARD launched a three-year ‘Manjusha Art Development Programme’ in all of the sixteen Bhagalpur blocks to revive and preserve this folk craft by fifty activity-based groups and large-scale Manjusha Crafts developed themselves.