By Chhandosree*, Dumka, Jharkhand
In the Internet era when people seek all knowledge and entertainment online, two traditional art forms of the Santhal Pargana are on the verge of becoming extinct.
Chador Badoni, a form of puppetry, and Jadu Patiya, a form of painting, are now limited to some rural pockets in Dumka and are practised by less than a dozen artists in the entire district. An online search yields only nine results for Chador Badoni, out of which only one link provides some information about the art form, and a little over 3,500 results for Jadu Patiya none of which shed any light on the current status of this beautiful painting style.
India is known for its art and culture. Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar in 2000, too is home to some special forms of arts that desperately require attention. Sohrai and Kohvar paintings of Hazaribagh, falling under North Chhotanagpur division of Jharkhand, have been well explored and one can see many examples of these art forms across Ranchi, the state capital, including at the chief minister's residence. However, Jadu Patiya — practised in the region around Dumka, a so-called sub-capital of Jharkhand that is situated 305 km northeast of Ranchi — is sadly suffering from neglect.
From time immemorial to the pre-Independence era, both Chador Badoni and Jadu Patiya were thriving in Santhal villages. Both the forms were used by freedom fighters to reach out to people.
From time immemorial to the pre-Independence era, both Chador Badoni and Jadu Patiya were thriving in Santhal villages. Both the forms were used by freedom fighters to reach out to people to inculcate patriotism and for entertainment as well.
"Chador Badoni, which means small wooden idol, is a kind of puppet show. In this we make small wooden puppets, of both male and female figures, doing various activities, as per the need of our story and put it on a base for the show," 50-year-old Babudhan Murmu of Badi Tola of Naoasar village of Hathiapathar panchayat in Masalia block of Dumka told VillageSquare.in.
Being a lone performer from the block and with none of his three adult sons ready to take the art form forward, Babudhan feels the art will die soon. "Making this khancha (frame) on which the dhuda (base) and pad (another base to fit the puppets) are fixed and every little puppet is a tedious job," he said. "Constructing one frame for Chador Badoni costs around ₹25,000 against which we hardly earn ₹50 to ₹150 a day, carrying it on head from home to home for show. We call it bhikari para (ask for money or grains). I start the show from Bhadra maas (around August) and continue showing it until Kali puja (end of October or mid-November)."
Explaining why his sons and other youngsters are not too interested, he said, "All have mobiles in hand. Why would they take interest in seeing something obsolete? And my financial situation prevents me from doing any value addition to the shows, so this art will die."
Being a lone performer from the block and with none of his three adult sons ready to take the art form forward, Babudhan feels the art will die soon.
Three Jadu Patia artists of Naoasar give out similar reasons why no one is taking an interest in learning the art of making these paintings.
"This is one of the oldest forms of paintings for which we still use raw natural colours like geru pathar (a red stone), sim pata (leaves of broad beans) and lamp black," explains Ganapati Chitrakar (50), the eldest of the three. "The three are mixed in various ways to get different colours. Painting brush is shaped out of thin twigs. We think of a concept, make a song on that concept and then make a series of paintings, ranging from 10 to 12. We connect each painting using homemade glue and once all the paintings are done, we roll it. While performing we open the roll, show one painting at a time and sing the story."
Shedding light on how Jadu Patia got its name, Nitai Chitrakar (40), another painter from the same village, said, "Jadu means magician and Patia means painter. Centuries ago, as my grandfather used to say, the painters used to visit houses where someone had died. In the scroll, the dead person's eyes were shown without the pupil and the family was told about the suffering that the soul might have to endure. Hence, to bring back the pupil some daan (donation) was sought. In the subsequent scrolls, the dead man was shown happy in heaven and his family would become satisfied."
Explaining why his sons and other youngsters are not too interested, Babudhan said, "All have mobiles in hand. Why would they take interest in seeing something obsolete?"
With changing times, the painters now make paintings based on mythology and folklores. "Yet there are no takers," lamented Jaydhan Chitrakar (22). "I make some money only during any festival that too around ₹150 to ₹200 a day. Else, I am a daily wager." He said that his father, the late Kamal Chitrakar, was a noted artist who had been featured in foreign magazines.
Nitai and Ganapati claimed that they were lucky enough to showcase their talent at a show in Bhopal, and Ahmedabad some years ago, where they received ₹25,000 each but after that they did not get much of attention.
Path of revival
Chador Badoni and Jadu Patia are indigenous and rare art forms but the Jharkhand government does not have any action plan or strategy for their revival.
"This is one of the oldest forms of paintings for which we still use raw natural colours like geru pathar (a red stone), sim pata (leaves of broad beans) and lamp black," explains Ganapati Chitrakar.
Louis Marandi, the state's social welfare minister who hails from Dumka constituency, denied that the art forms were dying. "Many people are practising the arts," he told VillageSquare.in. "We call them during special occasions to Ranchi." But she was unable to say whether the state's art and culture department had a of list of practicing artists who had not been forced to become daily wagers.
Manik Chandra Mandal (60), an elderly gentleman from Naoasar, made a request with folded hands: "These arts have generated from our land, please do something for their revival."
Chhandosree is a journalist based in Ranchi.
This article was first published on VillageSquare.in, a public-interest communications platform focussed on rural India.