Etymology: The name Sohrai is believed to be a derivative of a palaeolithic age word  ‘soro’, which means ‘to drive with a stick’. 

Origin: It is believed that this art form originates since the palaeolithic age as any specific period is not mentioned as they are compared with ancient cave paintings.  Sohrai is a common ritualistic cultural practice between the Munda, Santhal, Oraon, Prajapati, and the Khurmi community. Even though these communities have their respective storytelling art practices, they share this ritualistic art form as one community. 

Location: This art form is widely practiced in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand as well as in some parts of Bengal.

Relevance:  These wall paintings are designed to welcome new harvests, worship cattle, and offer thanksgiving to the forces of nature. Apart from the aesthetic value, these paintings are designed when the women repair their houses after heavy rains.


Significance: These wall paintings are made by the tribals of Jharkhand and West Bengal during the celebration of a festival called ‘Sohrai’ in the months of October-November. Their motive is to celebrate and appreciate nature and its elements.

Culture and Societies:  Sohrai paintings are made on the day after Diwali. This art form is exclusively done by women to honour the animals as they are devoted nature worshippers and believe that animals embody sentient spirits. These tribal communities believe that Sohrai paintings bring good fortune to their families and community.  

Religious significance: The tribes that practice Sohrai art are an amalgamation of nature worshippers and Hindus and their religious and spiritual beliefs reflect in their paintings.

Understanding the Art

Style: These are decorative and symbolistic frescos that are thickly outlined and have characters made with simplicity rather than focusing on anatomy. They reflect their influence derived from the environment around them.

Central motifs: Motifs of flora and fauna designs are mainly painted which signifies their life in these forested areas. 

Image Courtesy: Goan Connection

new outlook

Many governmental campaigns have been carried out to expose this art form to the masses, the Ranchi airport and many commercial places in Jharkhand adorn Sohrai paintings. These paintings have also been GI-tagged, which puts them on a larger art map.