A land with many reasons to celebrate, a land with unparalleled spirit, always on the run; this land of Western India is named Gujarat. Very traditional in its roots yet one of the most forward societies of the country, Gujarat has left many a things behind. But down the memory lane, we realize that old arts are still running in its veins. One such art being the Pithora Paintings.
The Pithora paintings trail back long into history and find their roots in the cave paintings, thousands of years old. This is the most prevalent and characteristic art tradition of the Rathwa community, who live in the Central Gujarat, 90 kms from Vadodara in a village called Tejgadh. The Pithora paintings are crude and it is this crudity that adds to the beauty and simplicity of the paintings.

THE PEOPLE:

The main group of tribes who practice this art are called Rathwas. However, the villages surrounding Tejgadh and Chhota Udaipur have other tribes as well who execute the Pithora paintings. These are very religious people and for them the presence of Baba Pithora is of divine importance. The Pithora painters are called Lakharas, the one who keeps an account of all the work is called Jokhara and the head priest is called Badwa. An interesting fact of these paintings is that only men are allowed to pursue this art and not the females of the family.

MYTHS ATTACHED:

Most of the Indian Arts have some legends attached to its origin. Pithora paintings are no exceptions. They have two main stories that are as old as time itself. One of the ideas was of a map. This tradition is supposed to have started in the 11th century, when Bharuch was a centre for traders from the North. The roads to Bharuch were real mysterious and even dangerous. So the tribes decided to earn a livelihood by escorting Indian and Foreign traders through this region. And to keep their profession safe, the leader of the tribe prepared a map full of codes. Thus, the seven hills became represented by seven horses and the mouth of river Narmada by two tigers. The leader also ordered the escorts to make the same painting in their houses. The people who agreed to the order were called Rathwas while those who did not were called Talawis. This practice went on and the act of making the paintings became a ritual and Pithora became their God.

The second myth is the story of Baba Pithora. One of the seven sisters of Raja Indra, Rani Kadi Koyal had an affair with Raja Kanjurana. She was still a maiden when she gave birth to a son and due to the fear of her brother; she let the boy afloat in a stream. Indra’s other two sisters found the boy while fetching water and named him Pithora. The story progresses as the boy stays at the palace and one fine day finds out who his parents were.  The King Indra accepted Pithora and invited a Grand Court where Pithora immediately identified Raja Kanjurana as his father. After much rejoicing, a grand wedding ceremony was arranged and Pithora wed Pithori with much aplomb. And so is the story depicted in the Pithora paintings.

RITUALS AND TECHNIQUES:

The process starts with the unmarried girls grinding the cow dung and the white chalk powder to paint the walls. Powder, earth and vegetable colors are mixed with milk and Mahua flower liquor to prepare the yellow, indigo, green, vermillion, red and silver dye for the Pithora Paintings. Whereas the brush is made by either chewing or beating the ends of a bamboo stick or twigs. Animistic figures – bull, horses, birds and tigers are an inseparable part of each Pithora Painting. But now as the times are changing when one can find the paintings of airplanes, trains, cars and other such modern things.

These paintings are made with the basic intention to appease or thank the Gods or for a wish to be granted. The head priest is summoned and the problems are narrated. Then after the solution is given by the priest, the ritual of paintings start. Generally the painting starts on a Tuesday and ends by Wednesday night. The paintings flood three walls of the house and the main wall of the verandah that divides it from the kitchen is called the Pithoro. The paintings have wavy lines, the marriage ceremony of Pithora and Pithori, and other animals like the white horses that depict the ghosts and witches who need to be satisfied with gifts.
When the Lakharas paint, the others sing and dance. When the paintings are done with, the head priest looks for loopholes and these are also corrected through hand work. The paintings are outlined with the help of a twig and then filled with colors. At the end, they are finished with silver color and bright colored dots. After all this, the sacrificing, singing, dancing and feasting is witnessed by visitors even from far away distances. The Pithora is said to be witnessing all this and whenever one sees a Pithora, more than half of the hut is given over to Him and marked as His presence.

Pithora paintings continue to be realistic and ritualistic as in the past. Today the tribes even paint for commercial reasons due to poverty and great demand of the art. But the Rathwas take care that the compositions are changed a little before they sell them. Today, one can find the Rathwas as farmers, computer graduates and even teachers. When asked they would say they love teaching the art to others as long as it is not misused. Pithora paintings are divine and their form should never be changed. Many organizations work for the betterment of the Rathwas and to give exposure to this dying art and various allied fields.
This varied heritage of the Rathwas should be definitely preserved as they add one of the brightest colors to the wide-ranging colors of Gujarat.

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=Pithora:%20The%20aura%20of%20life%20beyond%20paintings_43

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s