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THE RITUAL ART OF PITHORA WALL PAINTINGS

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The Pithora paintings are done by the Rathwa, Bhil, Nayak and Tadi tribes of Gujarat, parts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The origin of these paintings goes back a few thousand years, arising from the cave paintings at a local hilltop near koraj-i-dungar. These paintings speak of the social, cultural and mythological life and beliefs of the tribals.

The Pithora wall paintings are done on the main wall of the house, which divides the verandah from the kitchen. This part of the house is considered sacred to Pithoro, the god of food grains and the principal deity of the tribe. The same wall is used by the Warli and the Saora tribes for some of their paintings. The Pithora paintings are also made if the children are unwell, or if the children or cattle are unyielding. These are seldom made for decorative or ornamental purposes and mostly depict the legends of creation. They also paint all three walls of the verandah with a variety of scenes such as other deities, ghosts and ancestors. Particularly interesting is the depiction of sexual intercourse between men and women, as well as animals.

One of the most well represented figures in Pithora wall paintings is the horse, which is used to represent the gods, goddesses and ancestors. The depiction of seven horses in the paintings represent the seven hills bordering their region. The main characters of Pithoro and Pithorani are made in white. The other deities depicted are Ramdev and Walan, the rain god.

The walls for Pithora wall paintings are prepared by the kumaris, or unmarried girls using cow dung and clay over a period of seven days. Yet the paintings are done by men in groups of seven to eight. The characteristic white background is the result of the white clay, Pandurya. It is holy to the Rathwa tribe and is believed to purify the background for the painting. The colours used in the Pithora wall paintings are red, yellow, blue, green and orange.

The Pithora Motifs

There are numerous motifs in the Pithora paintings which have their own unique representations.

The entire painting is made within a sacred enclosure. A wavy line divides the plane into two parts. The section above this is used to depict the world of gods. The first figure to be painted is Ganesha. He is painted on a horse in the lower right corner. Other deities are also depicted in this section.

Below the wavy line is the marriage procession of Pithoro. It is the most important aspect of the painting and is illustrated like a royal wedding procession. The wedding mandapa often consists of a triangle, depicted just above the wedding procession. The features of royal life have influenced the painting, as can be seen in the presence of horses, elephants, chariots, dresses and ornaments.

Pithora paintingSource: Artist Akshay

 

The lower half of the painting depicts the myths of creation. It visualises the earth, mythical farmer, cow and bull, cowherd, kings, the goddess of destiny, various creatures of forests, as well as the minor deities are depicted here. Supernatural elements and cosmic characters such as the sun, moon, horses of the fields and village gods, as well as khatri, the ancestor’s horses are also depicted. The last row in Pithora paintings is used to depict elephants and raja Bhoja.

The orange dots in the centre of the Pithora paintings are called tipna. These are made after completion of the painting using fingers. 

No two paintings in Pithora are similar. Each painting has its own distinct mark left by the artist to signify his creative rights over the painting.

Pithora paintingSource: Artist Akshay

Deities in Pithora Paintings

  • Ganesh, or baba Ganeh is the first to be painted in any Pithora painting. He has an elephant trunk and is revered as the father figure.
  • Indra, or baba Ind is the god of rain and protector of animals.
  • Pithora deva is the principal deity in the Pithora paintings. He is the symbol of the various creations of the universe.
  • Raja bhoja is worshipped for good yields in agriculture and by the livestock.
  • Abho kunbhi and Mathari are worshipped as the creators of farming. Their daughter rani pithoro is worshipped during unpredictable monsoons.
  • Another female deity worshiped by the tribes is rani Kajal. She is worshipped as a mother and kuldevi of the tribe.

Pithora Art

 

The Traditions of Pithora Paintings

The paintings are incomplete without the ritualistic singing and chanting. The head priest ‘badwa’ supervises the ‘panghu vidhi’ and ‘Makai ni vidhi’ ceremonies associated with the installation of the Pithora painting.

There is a tribal belief that long time ago, when our planet was suffering from drought, a devotee vowed to please Pithora deva and it soon started to rain. He then organised painted Pithora deva on the walls of his home. The painting is undertaken upon fulfilment of wishes or removal of hardships ever since.

There are two types of Pithora paintings – ardho pithoro (half Pithora) and akho pithoro (complete Pithora). It depends on the vows undertaken as well as the economic standing of the devotee. In ardho pithoro, five to nine horses are depicted. All of them are without riders, except for lord Ganesh. In akho pithoro 18 horses are painted along with their riders.

PithoraSource: Indian Express

Conclusion

Pithora is not just a form of art, it is a way of life for the devotees, a way to express their society, culture and history. It has numerous motifs, each having a unique meaning. Each deity has its own significance in the painting, and are depicted for specific desires and obstacles. The depiction of nature in Pithora paintings represent its importance and inter-dependence in their daily lives.

~ Written by Misha Jaswal

Further Reads

  • Languishing Craft – Pithora Artists of Western Madhya Pradesh and their Languishing Ritual Art by the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India
  • Pithora art depicts different hues of tribal life by Swati Pachauri
  • The Ritual Painting of the God Pithora Baba by Haku Shah
  • Tribal Identity through craft by Jaya Jaitly

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