I recently interacted with self-taught artist Bishnu Prasad from Orissa. For many years, he studied the tribal cultures of Orissa as an assistant to anthropologists. Fascinated by the dying art of the Saura tribals, he creates paintings which are a vibrant fusioon of ancient Saura motifs and the artist's oown interpretations and innovattions.
These intricate paintings were an integral part of tribal life since millennia. But with conversion of many tribals into Christianity, they began renouncing old customs. “Today, their once common wall paintings have all but vanished,” laments Bishnu Prasad. Interested in painting since childhood, this self-taught artist has honed his skills for many years and aims to present his renderings of Saura art before the world.
The Sauras are among the most ancient tribes of India. Savari, the woman devotee of Lord Rama in the Ramayana, belonged to the Savara or Saura tribe. Jara, the hunter, who mortally wounded Lord Krishna with an arrow by accident, also belonged to this tribe. Today, the Sauras are best known for traditional wall paintings, which they call italons or ikons.
These intricate paintings have ritualistic significance, drawing upon tribal folklore and ancient animistic religion. The paintings are created around Idital, the deity of the Sauras. Each Idital contains many significant symbols. The paintings reflect the daily life of the Sauras and even the tiniest detail is rife with significance.
My detailed account can be read in Sunday Herald