Jadopatia Painting – Expressive Folk Art of Jharkhand


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Art has been an integral part of human society since time immemorial. Every region in the world has a unique artistic tradition, which is an expression of its cultural heritage. Jharkhand is not known for being a prominent arts and crafts hub in India, but it has a rich tribal culture and several art forms that have evolved over centuries. The art and crafts of Jharkhand reflects the region’s unique cultural identity, and it is a blend of traditional and contemporary styles. From intricate wood carvings to the vibrant and beautiful Jadopatia paintings, Jharkhand’s art is a diverse category. This article shall focus on the Jadopatia style of art in Jharkhand. 

History of Jadopatia Paintings

History of Jadopatia Paintings
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The Jadopatia art style is one style of Patachitra paintings. It evolved from the Santhal tribe who supposedly migrated to Jharkhand centuries ago.  The paintings are made by a community of painters amongst the Santhals known as ‘Jadopatuas’ or ‘magic painters’. The individual painters are known as ‘Chitrakars’, meaning ‘image-makers’, and are respected amongst their tribesmen for their expertise in the art, and for their traditional story-telling skills. The art has been passed down through generations for centuries, and is practised even today.

The Jadopatia paintings are originally scroll paintings that are a part of a long tradition of story-telling, with a bard narrating a story that the Jadopatia scroll illustrated. As the story was narrated, the scroll would be unravelled gradually, representing the scenes relevant to the story at the particular point. This was a form of entertainment and education amongst the Santhals. Additionally, the artists were known to have the ability to help give salvation to dead souls. The jadopatias also earned by visiting houses in which funerals happened. They narrated a story of the woes of the dead man’s soul. After a certain payment, either of money or of gifts like grain or pulses,  he would present scrolls and narrate a story where the dead man was content and in paradise, and this helped the family deal with their loss. 

Jadopatia Painting Themes and Style

Jadopatia Painting Themes and Style
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The paintings are vivid and colourful, yet minimalist, representing scenes from the daily life and celebrations of the Santhals to those from Indian mythology and the ideas of afterlife, both in Santhal traditions and Hindu traditions, and have a thick, intricate border. The eyes of the characters in the paintings are usually large and widened, giving a dramatic appeal to it. The features of the characters in the paintings understandably resemble those of the Santhals themselves, and gives the art a unique look. 

Jadopatia Painting Process

Jadopatia Painting Themes and Style
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Traditionally, Jadopatia paintings are made on palm leaves, and the brushes are made of goat or squirrel hair on a porcupine quill. However, now, the paintings are made with commercially available brushes and on paper or canvas, since the art of scroll paintings for storytelling has declined. The colours are made of natural elements, from tree barks and vegetables to minerals. The juices from the different elements of vegetation, like leaves, flowers and barks, were cooked till they reached the right consistency of paint. They are then mixed with the gum obtained from the bark of the babul tree to thicken it further. 

First, the artists begin with sketching the outline of the figures in the painting roughly with a pencil, and then, fill it in with the traditionally made colours. In the end, the border is filled in with a specific colour, which is usually red for representations of scenes from Indian mythology.

Jadopatia Paintings Present State

Jadopatia Paintings Present State
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The present state of the Jadopatia artists is far from good. The art has lost its popularity, as a result of the decline in the interest in traditional crafts, and also as a result in the decline of the singing – storytelling tradition, with the evolution of more modern forms of entertainment. As a result, continuing the tradition of this art is not a lucrative option, and very few artists are left today. Most artists have given up on the art and have taken up jobs like carpentry, metal work, and physical labour. Younger generations are discouraged from getting into the craft and are told to find more lucrative jobs, or do so themselves. 

The art itself has evolved to meet the demands of the market today- evolving from the scroll art complementing storytelling it originally was to an art by itself, made on individual sheets of paper or canvas for display. In addition, the materials have also changed amongst some artists,, with commercially available brushes and paints being used instead of the traditional goat hair brushes and natural colours. However, the art has still not gotten its due recognition, with the governments, both at the state and central level ignoring the woes of the artists and the uniqueness of the art. 

Final Thoughts

The Jadopatia paintings are one of the most beautiful forms of traditional folk painting- they aptly represent Indian folk culture in a visually appealing and pleasant form.. However, in this age of fast paced globalisation and modernisation, traditions of yore are no longer valued. We must recognise the value of all forms of traditional art, especially from pockets of what aren’t considered top tourist destinations, because these art forms aren’t given anything close to their due recognition. We must improve our awareness of India’s rich folk heritage, and so must the government, so that these art forms are duly valued and that the artists continue having an incentive to practise the arts and crafts that make our culture unique. 

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