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Mandana paintings: This artist is struggling to keep the tradition alive

Koshilaya Devi, a 68-year-old artist from Rajasthan’s Baran city has been working hard to preserve and conserve the traditional white chalk on red background Mandana drawings.

art and culture Updated: Aug 24, 2016 16:08 IST
Mandana paintings,Koshilaya Devi,Rajasthan art
Koshilya Devi has till now painted over 100 designs in the Mandana style on hardboard using oil paints. (PTI)

A 68-year-old woman from Baran city in Rajasthan has been engaged in preserving and conserving the traditional white chalk on red background Mandana drawings, seen on the walls and floors of rural houses in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Koshilya Devi has till now painted over 100 designs in the Mandana style on hardboard using oil paints. The artist says she intends to document and preserve the traditional folk art form, which is on the verge of disappearance due to rising number of concrete houses in rural areas.

Famed for warding off evil and acting as a good luck charm, the tribal paintings are derived from the word ‘Mandan’ referring to decoration and beautification and comprises simple geometric forms like triangles, squares and circles to decorate houses.

Mandana art work from Shilpgram in Udaipur, Rajasthan. (Wikipedia)

“The art is typically passed on from mother to daughter and uses white khariya or chalk solution and geru or red ochre. They use twigs to draw on the floors and walls of their houses, which are first plastered with clay mixed with cowdung,” says Devi.

Other than conserving, the artist is also engaged in globalising the local art. Recently, she gave a seven-day training to a visitor from Germany who is now imparting the training of the same in her country. Devi’s son Jitendra Kumar, who is also convener of Intach, Baran chapter, says apart from the traditional designs she has also developed 40 fresh designs. “Tawaya, Tailghani, Tangi Khan Gavya are among those 40 forms that she has developed. She has also applied for a copyright last month,” says Kumar. “The Delhi chapter of Intach in recognition of Devi’s creativity awarded her Rs 10,000 which she spent in conservation works of Mandana,” says Kumar.

Devi, who has so far developed one hundred designs of Mandana forms on hard boards with oil paint, claims to know drawing of at least 600 Mandana forms. “She has separately developed 40 other fresh Mandana forms apart from those drowned traditionally for centuries in rural culture of Rajasthan,” said her son Jitendra Kumar Sharma who is also convener of Intach Baran chapter.

Mandana art work on the walls of Rajasthani mud huts from Shilpgram, Udaipur. (Wikipedia)

Though Mandana art has seen a drastic drop in visibility, and has less of takers among villagers due to rise in number of concrete houses, the art still holds the rustic charm, and its paintings adorn walls of patrons. According to experts in the Mandana art form, the traditionally drawn designs bear architectural and scientific significance. “Architectural and scientific significance exists in Mandana art forms and it needs to be studied,” says Madan Meena, a Kota-based freelance artist. “It is more significant that Koshalya Devi has individually drawn Mandana forms on rustic cultural features and practices which have gone outdated,” he says.

First Published: Aug 24, 2016 16:05 IST