Pithora Paintings are much more than colorful images on walls for the tribes of Rathwas, Bhilals, and Naykas of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh . They signify the advent of an auspicious occasion (like weddings, childbirth, festivals) in the family or community. An art form, which essentially conveys the joy and celebration of a community, has to reflect the collective mood of it, and Pithora paintings with their colors and animated figures mirrors the sentiments of their creators.
The essence of a Pithora painting lies in its earthiness; everything from the theme to the execution has the ethnicity of rural India. Even materials used are quite exotic: the colors are prepared by mixing pigments with milk and liquor prepared from the auspicious Mahuda tree. Indeed the joie de vivre of the community couldn't have found a more suitable mean of expression.
The tribes of Rathwas , Bhils and Nayaks of central Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh practice this Art form.
The Rathwas have a distinct cultural heritage and an interesting historical background. They mimic the upper caste of Tadagis in their way of life. They depend on the forests around them for a livelihood. The forests therefore are sacred for them. The family is the most important unit of this tribe and they practice arranged marriages, however clan exogamy is also observed. Their intrinsic aesthetics is evident in their quaintly done mud hits, which are adorned with colorful Pithora Paintings.
The ancient tribes of Bhils too practice this art form with meticulous diligence.
The Ritual called Pithora Paintings
Pithora Painting can be called a ritual rather that an art form for it is “performed” to thank God or for a wish or a boon to be granted. A comprehensive understanding of this ritual will call for a narrative- the head priest of the community who is called “Badwa”, is summoned when a problem occurs in a family. The problems are narrated to the Badwa “ who offers solutions, which almost always involves the painting of Pithoras on the walls of the house. The Pithora Baba is considered to be the reigning deity of the community and his presence is considered to be the solution of all problems. The first wall of the house is considered to be the right place for a Pithora. A Pithora is however, considered to be a three-wall affair, so the first wall and the other two walls around it are prepared for the painting. The walls to be painted are first plastered with mud and cow dung by the unmarried girls of the household, and then coated with chalk powder this process is called lipna. And then the painters proceed to do their work.
Interestingly the world of Pithora Painting, unlike that of Warli and Madhubani Paintings, is a male dominated one.
The technique of Pithora Paintings
As stated above the colors of Pithora Paintings is prepared by mixing pigments with milk and liquor prepared from the auspicious Mahuda tree. However slowly the Pithora painters (or Lakharas, as they are called) are gravitating towards the fabric colors available in markets. Traditionally the brushes were prepared from chewing the ends of a bamboo sticks or a twig, but now the Rathwas and Bhils have started using modern brushes. The main colors used are yellow, indigo, orange, green, vermilion, red, ultramarine, black and silver
The Brushstrokes are bold and swift and some critics feel that little importance is given to detailing, but to most art connoisseurs it's the organic whole that makes this art for such a treat for the eyes
The themes of Pithora Paintings
The main theme of Pithora Paintings is the marriage of the deity Pithoro with Pithori . All around the divine couple all representatives of the universe are drawn-so we have the sun, the moon, stars, animals and plants dotting the paintings. Horses occupy a special place in the Pitora world for they are considered sacred. In fact most Pitora Paintings are easily identifiable because of the distinctive representation of horses. Cows, Bulls and minor deities also find place in this menagerie. One shouldn't forget that the philosophy of all tribal art is a very simple one that of seeing oneself as a part of the universe and Pithora Paintings ably projects that philosophy.
Pithora Paintings in the Modern World
Like most tribal arts of India Pithora paintings too have caught the fancy of art lovers around the world. However the true proponents of this exotic art fear that rampant commercialization will lead to trivializing the ritual that is called Pithora Paintings, but the art lover in us can hopefully assure them that their art of sanctity will get its due respect.