The lands on which Jharkhand now exists are ancient lands inhabited by ancient people. Tracing their ancestry to Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, the tribes of Jharkhand have lived lives quite isolated from the rest of the nation. Though we call the state backward due to its development level, the culture and traditions of its people are no less as rich as that of the more prosperous states. In this post we will discuss the various folk arts and crafts practised by the tribal people of Jharkhand.
Oraon Comb Cut Paintings
The tribes of Jharkhand are actually part of a bigger tribal population that dominates the Chotanagpur Plateau, i.e. North-Western Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Among them are the Oraon tribe who speak Kurukh, a dravidian language. They were once considered to be extremely backward but have now skyrocketed to the top by exploiting educational and economic incentives given by the various governments. Many of them are now MLAs and MPs.
However, most of the Oraon people still live in villages and still practice their traditions. One of these traditions is painting their homes in a specific style. They first paint the wall with black clay and allow it to dry. After the layer is dry, they paint over it using white clay (kaolin). While the upper is still relatively wet, they use a broken comb or some other sharp implement to cut away the white clay, revealing the black clay underneath. This creates a pattern that when viewed from afar, reveals a black and white painting. This style is called the Oraon Comb Cut Painting as it is mostly used by the Oraon people.
Comb cut paintings mostly feature geometric shapes, wild animals, arches etc. However, during harvest season, floral designs are used.
Sohrai and Khovar Painting
During the winter harvest, the tribal communities of Jharkhand and Odisha hold a harvest festival. This festival is called Sohrai and this is what gives the name to the painting style. During this time the women of the household paint the walls using mineral and clay based colours in the form of flowers, animals, birds, fruits and other nature inspired objects. This is done after the rainy season is over because the paint is not waterproof and needs repairs after the rain is over. These paintings are made by the Santhal tribe.
The name Sohrai comes from the paleolithic word ‘soro’, which means to drive with a stick. This art is very old, as similar techniques were used to make the ‘Isko’ and other rock art in the caves of Satpahar in the Hazaribagh district. That makes this style date back to 10000 to 4000 BC.
Sohrai and Khovar paintings are stylistically the same, however they commemorate different occasions. As said earlier Sohrai paintings are made in the harvest season in winter. Khovar paintings are however made during weddings. These paintings are made to decorate the bridal chamber.
Both Sohrai and Khovar art styles are practiced primarily by women.
In the Eastern Singhbhum district of Jharkhand is the village of Amadubi is a community of artists called the Chitrakars. They paint on scrolls using a style that is indigenous to the region. This style of painting is called Paitkar. This style can be called a variant of the Pata style of painting practiced in both West Bengal and Odisha.
The tradition of Paitkar painting is quite old. In fact, it is considered to have been developed alongside the other more well know Patachitra style scroll paintings. However, it has languished in obscurity compared to the others, due to lack of patronage and exposure.
The fact of the matter is, this style is dying, with the Chitrakars confined to one village. We implore you to help popularize this art style and prevent it from going extinct by asking the Jharkhand government to promote Paitkar on the global level just as West Bengal and Odisha have done to their own artforms.
The Chhau dance of West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand is famous the world over. It has three different schools, the Purulia Chhau of Bengal, Seraikela Chhau of Jharkhand and the Mayurbhanj Chhau of Odisha. The dance involves an all male troupe wearing elaborate getups. Among the costume elements are painted masks representing gods and goddesses, demons and people. Mayurrbhanj Chhau does not use masks but painted faces.
The masks used in Seraikela Chhau are made by artists in Jharkhand and are made of a variety of materials. Wood, pumpkin, gourd, clay, cloth or paper mache are the common materials used, and the masks are painted in bright colours to signify facial expressions as Seraikela Chhau does not have vocal accompaniment and the mask covers the face completely. These masks are highly prized worldwide as collectors’ items.
Dokra as an art considered to be about 4000 years old. Spread all over India, this metalcrafting technique is used by artisans to make decorative items and art. In Jharkhand, this art is practiced in Hazaribagh, Khunti, East Sighbhum, Ramgarh and Dumka districts. Dokra brass work is very popular and is shipped worldwide, providing livelihood to hundreds of artists.
Jharkhand has a bright future ahead of it with its rich natural resources but it is still held back developmentally by the fact that it is a very new state. Old traditions are being discarded as new economic opportunities are opening up. The youth of the state have little interest in engaging in artistic pursuits, even as ancient artforms languish in the background. There needs to be a push to promote these artforms before they disappear completely from our cultural landscape, depriving future generations of the traditions and culture of their forefathers. Let us all come together and build a better future, by educating others and supporting these artists so that the art of Jharkhand keeps delighting us with its beauty.