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Exploring The Cultural Art Forms Of Jharkhand

art forms of Jharkhand

The Rich Diversity Of The Art Forms Of Jharkhand

Did you know that the state of Jharkhand is India’s ‘land of forests’? This north-eastern state is home to 32 tribal communities and a kaleidoscope of cultural art forms. Some of Jharkhand’s art forms have gained international recognition, while others are slowly disappearing. Tribal art forms are a creative expression of community and individual sentiments. Thus, the cultural art forms of Jharkhand have provided a sense of pride and identity to its people.

Paitkar, Khovar, Sohrai, Jado Patua, Ganju, Birhor, Bhuiya, Kurmi, Turi, Munda, and Ghatwal art are only some of the traditional and cultural art forms of Jharkhand. This blog explores two rare and dying art forms: Paitkar and Jadu Patua.

Cultural Art Forms Of Jharkhand: Paitkar Painting

Paitkar painting (image source: maatighar.com)

Paitkar painting is a method of creative expression and storytelling. Singers carried these traditional scroll paintings from door to door, gracing households with an audio-visual performance. Originally, the artists in the Amadubi village in the Dhalbhumgarh area of Jharkhand would practise this art form.

The Goddess Manasa is popularly worshipped in West Bengal. As Bengal borders Jharkhand, the customs associated with Goddess Manasa spread to its people. The state of Jharkhand is home to many poisonous snakes such as the Cobra, Krait, and Russell Viper. Along with these, there are many non-venomous snakes that live there. Manasa is the goddess of snakes, and she is said to bring prosperity and protect the locals from snake bites. Thus, the Bengali goddess became part of the art forms of Jharkhand. Paitkar paintings frequently depict her.

Paitkar paintings are the scroll paintings of Jharkhand. They are similar to the Pattachitra paintings of Orissa and the Patashilpa art forms of West Bengal. Like some other art forms of Jharkhand, a loss in patronage led to the decline of Paitkar painting.

Colours And Materials Used

Paitkar artists paint on cloth or paper, usually with natural water-based paints. Early versions of this art form feature an earthy palette of olive, dark brown, and black.

Later, as artists gained better access to natural pigments, the art forms of Jharkhand began featuring red, yellow ochre, white, and indigo. The artists collect primary colours from nature and mix them together to create other colours. Artists who practise this art form today choose not to use synthetic colours in their paintings.

(image source: maatighar.com)

The Paitkar Chitrakars mix natural pigments with babool tree resin or gum from the Bel fruit to create natural paints. They create yellow and red paint by collecting stones and soil and crushing them to form pigments. The artists use burnt rice or lampblack to get black paint and lime powder for white paint. They make blue paint from indigo, and crush broad bean leaves to create green paint. The artists would make their own paint brushes by attaching goat or squirrel hair to a bamboo stick.

Also read: Natural Colours And Their Significance In Indian Art

The Style And Themes Of This Art Form

Paitkar scroll paintings may have been inspired by ‘Pandulipi’, or manuscripts that were created by royal messengers. Paitkar painters are also known as ‘Chitrakars’. Women would only help in the preparation of paints and tools used in Paitkar painting. The art was traditionally practised by only men, unlike the Sohrai and Khovar art forms of Jharkhand that were practised by only women. Human figures occupy most of the space in a Paitkar composition. They are drawn in a side profile and have elongated eyes. Thick linework makes the figures stand out from the background. Anatomical details are simplified, as are most organic forms and shapes.

Paitkar paintings include stories from Hindu myths as well as depictions of tribal gods of Jharkhand. They convey stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. These scrolls were traditionally part of a performance and would be accompanied by songs such as Manasa pada, Kali Pada, etc. Paitkar art also contain scenes from daily life, festivals, flora, and fauna, as well as ‘Pilchu hara and Pilchu bhuri’, the Santhal creation story.

Also read: Traditional art forms and its role in storytelling

Cultural Art Forms Of Jharkhand: Jadu Patua

The Mrityu Pat paintings used for the Chakshu Daan practise
(image source: contemporary-tribal-folk-arts-india.blogspot.com)

Jadu Patua is also called Jadopatya or Jadopatua. The artists who practise this art form are also referred to as ‘Jadu Patua’, which literally translates to ‘magic painter’. The Santhal and Bhumij communities in Jharkhand and some areas of West Bengal practise this art form. The Santhal community is the third largest tribal community in India. It is well known for Santhal paintings, wall murals, Chador Badoni (a form of puppetry), and Jadu Patua.

Jadu Patua is an ancient variation of the Paitkar scroll paintings. Jadu Patua painters would travel from town to town and perform for the village folk by singing songs and telling stories about life and death. The paintings were a part of this performance.

Themes of Jadu Patua

A Jadu Patua scroll by Ganapati Chitrakar (image source: brownhistory.substack.com)

The main themes of Jadu Patua are the Pilchu Hara and Pilchu Bhuri creation story, various avatars of Kali, and the Baha feast, which shows a celebration and festivities such as sacrifices, drinking, and tribal dances. They also painted the afterlife and the various punishments that Yama would dole out to sinners in hell.

Jadu Patuas would visit homes where someone had recently died. They would carry a stack of paintings with them, all human figures of men, women, and children, but without the eyes painted in. The Santhals believed that this meant the soul was blind and could not find its way to heaven. In order to prevent the soul from suffering, the family of the deceased would offer the painter some kind of fee or offering. The Jadu patua would then paint in the pupils of the dead person, symbolising that their soul had found happiness and heaven. This practice was known as Chakshu Daan.

Also read: Lost art of India (art that no longer is being practised)

Colours And Materials Used

Jadu Patua artists use natural colours (image source: maatighar.com)

The artists create red paint from ‘geru’, a type of stone, and green from broad bean leaves, or Seem pata. They mix these colours with lampblack to create other shades. Jadu Patua artists used brushes made of goat hair, which they attached to small sticks or a porcupine quill. Jadu Patua and Paitkar are the only scroll painting art forms of Jharkhand. Each painting contains twenty or more story panels. They would paint the panels on palm leaves, and use cloth from old sarees to reinforce the back.

The Style And Themes Of This Cultural Art Form

Jadu Patua paintings depict the theme of life after death. Nowadays, the themes of Jadu Patua also include mythological stories and folklore references. The artists compose a song to accompany their paintings. In addition to the Chakshudan Pat style, art historian Mildred Archer identified seven distinct themes of Jadu Patua painting, including the Kingdom of Death, Story of Creation (Pilchu Hara and Pilchu Bhuri), Thakur Jiu, Satya Pir Baha Porob, and Jatra.

Preserving Tribal And Cultural Art Forms Of Jharkhand

Jadu Patua artist showing his work (image source: maatighar.com)

About 30% of Jharkhand’s population is tribal, and the terrain is filled with hills and holy places. Its art has a rich cultural history and significance. The art forms of Jharkhand, Sohrai-Khovar have received the GI (geographic indication) tag. The government is actively working towards their revival. Unfortunately, other art forms of Jharkhand like Paitkar and Jadu Patua rely heavily on performances and have been dying out due to a lack of opportunities and patronage. Artists have adapted to modern times by decreasing the length of the scrolls and using commercially available brushes to paint. Canvas and paper have replaced palm leaves as the painting medium.

The themes of Paitkar painting have adapted to modern demands.
(image source: maatighar.com)
Bashudev Chitrakar exhibits a horror Jadu Patua scroll (image source:‘The Gift Of The Eye’, Hans Hadders)

Many performing art forms of Jharkhand have been reduced from singing and storytelling to handicrafts and painting. There are very few buyers for Paitkar and Jadu Patua art due to which the majority of these traditional artists have given up painting. Creating a market for these art forms and ensuring that people learn them and preserve their legacy is the need of the hour. Are you interested in tribal and cultural art forms? Check us out on Instagram @rooftop_app and download the Rooftop app to discover courses and workshops on Indian art.

Explore The Art Forms Of Jharkhand With Rooftop!

Rooftop app regularly conducts workshops on Jharkhand’s art forms such as Sohrai, Paitkar, Jadu Patua, and many more. All our courses are aligned with traditional techniques while exploring these art forms in a modern context. We also recruit master artists to teach in-depth courses on Indian traditional and tribal art forms.

Join us in our endeavours by downloading the Rooftop App from Google Play or the App Store and together, let’s preserve the ancient cultural art forms of India!

By Melissa D’Mello

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