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sohrai

Background

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

Origin: It is believed that this art form originated in the palaeolithic age as they share certain similarities with ancient cave paintings. It is thus difficult to specify the time frame of their origin. Sohrai is a common ritualistic cultural practice among the Munda, Santhal, Oraon, Prajapati, and Khurmi communities. Even though these communities have distinct storytelling 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:  Sohrai wall paintings are painted to welcome new harvests, worship cattle, and offer thanksgiving to the forces of nature. They also add aesthetic value. After heavy rains, women re-plaster and repair their houses and paint Sohrai designs on the walls.

History

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 animals. 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 are reflected in their paintings.

Understanding the Art

Style: These are decorative and symbolistic frescos with thick outlines and simplified characters drawn without a focus on anatomy. Sohrai paintings reflect the influence of the natural environment on them.

Central motifs: Motifs of flora and fauna are common, which are symbolic of their life in forested areas. 

Image Courtesy: Goan Connection

new outlook

Many government campaigns have been launched to raise awareness of this art form among the general public. Sohrai art is displayed at the Ranchi airport and many commercial places in Jharkhand. Sohrai and Khovar paintings have also been GI-tagged, which puts them on a larger art map. 

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