Sohrai Painting, Jharkhand

  • Article tells you all about Sohrai Art, why and how made and by whom and how (raw materials, process and colours used).

Sohrai paintings are age-old tribal traditional paintings based on nature themes like forest, people, and animals. The paintings are done by adivasi women using natural ingredients such as different shades of clay and charcoal. Earlier, tribal women used ‘miswak (datuns)’ to paint the walls of their house with this traditional art.

 

Original Sohrai paintings

In Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand an indigenous art form is practiced by the women. Ritualistic art is done on mud walls to welcome the harvest and to celebrate the cattle. The women clean their houses and decorate their walls with murals of Sohrai arts. This art form has continued since 10,000–4,000 BC.

 

This art form was prevalent mostly in caves but now has been primarily shifted to houses with mud walls. But with the extinction of its natural canvas, the biggest challenge for the art form is to retain its original spirit. It doesn’t matter whether the canvas is mud or glass or a computer screen. In the end, art is greater than the pen and ink it is written with.

 

History

According to the Santhal tradition, Marang Buru (god of the mountains), Jaher ayo (goddess of the forest) and the elder sister of the Santhals, would descend on earth from heaven to pay a visit to their brothers and to commemorate this event.

 

The harvest festival is celebrated at this time and women decorate their walls with murals of Sohrai arts. These paintings are believed to bring good luck. It’s from here that this art originated, adding to the culture and traditions of India. Useful article on this art form

Pic courtesy The Hindu

The name

The name ‘Sohrai’ is said to have derived from a paleolithic age word - ‘soro’, meaning ‘to drive with a stick’.

 

The festival

Sohrai is a five-day festival of the Santhal, Munda, Prajapati, Khurmi and Oraon tribes in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and West Bengal. In some areas it is shortened to three. It is held at the start of the winter harvest season.

 

It is celebrated during Amavasya in Kartik (October-November) month as per the Hindu calendar. In some regions, it is celebrated in mid-January. The festival is similar to Diwali. People clean and re-paint the house. In the night, they light earthen lamps in the cattle-sheds and offered sacrifice to the deity of animals Pasupati. The festival is accompanied by variety of rituals, consumption of handia (rice beer) in copious quantities, dancing, singing and merry making.

 

Deciding the date

The date of the festival is usually decided by the Manjhi, the village headman in consultation with the elders of the village. There is no fixed date marked off, thus celebrations are often staggered across villages, within the traditional time frame. The purpose is to enable the villagers to celebrate Sohrai in their own villages as well as in their relatives, especially married sisters and daughters.

Pic courtesy Artsofearthindia.in 

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Day 1

Rituals and sacrifice of hens are conducted by the village priest in an open space as an invocation for their gods. It is only attended by men. The same hen is then cooked and served as a feast with boiled rice. With this, the manjhi announces start of the festival.

 

Day 2

The second day is devoted to invoking blessings from the gods for individual homes. The cattle are sent to the fields in the morning to graze. In their absence, the women folks of the house decorate the huts by painting them. Meanwhile, food is prepared which would serve as prasad after the puja.

 

Upon returning, the cattle are warmly welcomed. Their horns are anointed with oil and vermilion. Garlands made by strewing paddy strands are tied across their foreheads. When the puja gets over, the prasad is distributed among the villagers.

 

Day 3

Amid the loud sound of drums, the cattle are taken to an open field where they are let loose for games and recreational purposes. The women also join the menfolk this day.

 

Raw materials

The distinctive Sohrai art painted on the mud walls is a matriarchal tradition handed down from mother to daughter.

Mud wall painting. 

These colourful paintings are done totally by using natural pigments mixed in mud-Kali matti, Charak matti, Dudhi matti, Lal matti (Geru), and Pila matti. Artists use datoon or cloth swabs daubed in different earth colours to paint on the walls - bulls, horses with riders, wild animals, trees, lotuses, peacocks, and horned deities.

 

Sohrai paintings are considered to be good luck paintings.

 

The process

The wall is first coated with a layer of white mud. While the layer is still wet, they draw with their fingertips on it. The cow dung that was earlier used to cake the walls of the house is used to add colour. The dark outline is visible due to the previously applied contrasting white mud coat. The canvases range up to 12 x 18 feet. The designs are usually drawn from the artist’s memory. The personal experience of the artist, and their interaction with nature are the biggest influence.

Sohrai Art.

Also read Sohrai, the traditional paintings of the Santhalis 

 

The significance of colours

The Sohrai art, painted on the mud wall, is a tradition handed down from mother to daughter.

 

It is a symbolic-sacred art form of signs that carry multiple meanings. The house it covered with black earth representing the womb; the black earth is covered with the white earth called Dudhi (milk) representing the god and the symbols of sperm and light.

 

When the white is covered entirely over the black earth and cut with a comb, the result is seen as a transformation of inert earth into an expression of the mother goddess.

 

The red line is drawn first as it represents the ‘blood of the ancestors’, procreation and fertility.

 

The next line is black which signifies eternal dead stone and mark of the God, Shiva.

 

The next all-encompassing outer lines stand in their traditional values of protection, fidelity, and chastity.

 

The white is painted with the last year’s rice, grounded with milk into gruel. This represents food.

Also read Mural Traditions of Jharkhand

 

Sohrai art. 

How to paint Sohrai Paintings?

Sohrai tribal painting is sometimes painted with one colour and sometimes with multiple colours. But the colours are all-natural dyes.  Brown, yellow ochre, red, black and other earthy colours are used to paint. Now one can see these painted on Government buildings and railway stations as a step to promote this form of art but the colours used here are synthetic.

 

The designs in Sohrai folk art range from flowers and fruits to various other nature-inspired designs. The animals are quite big and prominent and the leaves and flowers fill the rest of the drawing space. The personal experience of the artist and his interaction with nature is the biggest influence on this art.

 

The patterns are simple. There is hardly any geometrical shape in them and mostly curves and rounds which make it look natural. The thick black outlines alternating with colours make the paintings bright and beautiful.

 

The distinctive Sohrai art painted on the mud walls is a matriarchal tradition handed down from mother to daughter. These colourful paintings are done totally by using natural pigments mixed in mud — Kali matti, Charak matti, Dudhi matti, Lal matti (Geru), and Pila matti. Artists use datoon (teeth cleaning twig) or cloth swabs daubed in different earth colours to paint on the walls — bulls, horses with riders, wild animals, trees, lotuses, peacocks, and horned deities. Sohrai paintings are considered to be good luck paintings.

 

Also readc      Interesting facts of Sohrai/Kohvar art

 

Conclusion

Jharkhand’s crafts including the Sohrai painting, form a very significant part of the Jharkhand state’s cultural tradition in India. The Jharkhand crafts show a lot of skills. But the craftsmanship quality is not balanced with the requisite promotional activities.

 

As a result, the Jharkhand crafts as a whole have not earned the national and foreign acclamation that it deserves.

 

Sohrai paintings, which are religious, secular and important to a woman’s world, are among India’s most delicate, frail, artistic and endangered indigenous cultures. It is the craft performed primarily by married women, after weddings and through harvest, and the knowledge and experience are passed on to younger students.

So, it is necessary to save and promote the art form. The young designers should find creative ways to incorporate the art style in their collections. This would not only give a contemporary twist to the painting but also help in preserving the fabulous art.

 

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The Also Read are also references.

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