Jadopatia painting is a type of folk art that is popular in the villages of Jharkhand’s Dumka district. The word ‘Jadopatia’ means ‘Magic Painters.’ The paintings are created by Bengali painters known as ‘Chitrakars,’ which means ‘picture-makers.’ The paintings tell fascinating stories about the origins of life, life after death, Hindu history and myths, as well as tribal life, rituals, and festivals.
Natural elements such as stones, leaves, flowers, and tree bark are utilised to create the colours used in paintings. Earlier, even the paint brushes used to be manufactured locally from goat hairs.
Jadopatia paintings are traditionally done in scroll style, with a series of drawings that tell a tale. Jadopatia is gradually losing its elongated form and surviving in the tourist industry as a single-frame painting.
History of Jadopatia Paintings
The Jadopatia painting’s historical heritage can be traced back to the culture of the adjacent state of West Bengal. The artists are of Bengali descent and collaborate with other West Bengal Pata artists.
The Chitrakars were once from the Nava Shaka (group of nine castes) and were degraded because they refused to obey the usual criteria for representing the gods, according to the Brahmavaivarta Purana (ancient mythological literature).
The Magic Painters of Jharkhand
Nitai Chitrakar explained how Jadopatia earned its name by saying that Jado means magician and Patia means scroll painter. Painters used to go to houses where someone had died centuries ago. In the scroll, a dead person’s portrait was portrayed without a pupil in the eyes, and the family was told of the anguish that the soul would be going through, and that a donation was requested to bring back the pupil (Chakshu Daan).
After receiving his payment, the Jadopatia would sit on his heels and unroll his scrolls, chanting the appropriate commentary, in which the dead man was represented to be happy in paradise, and the family was content. They stated that by doing so, they would be able to assist the mourners in overcoming their sadness. As a result, they became known as Jadoptaia.
Finally, the Jadopatia departs, carrying his rewards. In some circumstances, they would demand an additional cost. The burnt remains of the deceased are said to be plunged in the sacred Damodar River, which Santhal refers to as the “sea.” The Santhals would pay the Jadopatia to travel to the Damodar and perform the rites because it is so far away.
The Tradition of Pata Paintings
Pata painting can be classified as a variation of Jadopatia painting. Long scroll painting is known as pata painting or patachitra. The format of this scroll painting is vertical.
Paitkar paintings from Jharkhand, Patachitra from West Bengal, and Pattachitra from Odisha are the other types of Pata paintings.
Pata painting is one of India’s oldest folk paintings. In West Bengal, the Patachitra-painting communities are known as Patua. They are also known as Patidar, Patekar, or Paitkar in Jharkhand. Paitkar is derived from the word ptekar. Padya is the source of Patachitra. It can be traced back to the following:
Patchitra > Pada chitra > Padya chitra
Padya or Pada is a two-line rhyming poem. Paitkar painting’s narrative scroll style is derived from Pandulipi (a scroll in nature), which was once used by kings to deliver messages to other kings.
The Medium in Jadopatia Paintings
Water-based colour obtained from nature was the medium utilised by the Jadopatia artisans to paint their scrolls. Chitrakar’s colour palette is restricted to a few hues. They exclusively collect natural primary colours. The artists produce more colours by combining the basic primary colours of red, yellow, and blue. These fundamental colours are combined to create secondary colours. Olive green, deep brown, and black dominated older Paitkar paintings. Later, various colours such as Indigo, Ochre yellow, and others were used to create the shift. The colour red is commonly used in religious and mythological paintings. Instead of using white paint, painters sometimes leave their paper as “paper white” or “blank” to specify the white colour.
Some commonly used colours and their sources:
- Red – Heamatite (Gerua Patthar)
- Yellow – Yellow Ochre stone (Haldi Patthar), Turmeric (Haldi)
- Black – Lamp Soot (Carbon Black)
- Orange – Palash Flowers
- Brown – Brown Stone
- Green – Bean Leaves (Seem Patta)
- Blue – Indigo
When painting on paper, most Jadopatia painters use solely natural colours. When painting on canvas cloth, some of them have begun to use commercial colours as well.
The Technique in Jadopatia Paintings
The soil and colour stones are plentiful along the riverbank, but they are difficult to locate. To make the colours, artists ground the leaves or flowers into a paste, then squeeze the paste to extract the juice. The juice is then cooked until it reaches the proper consistency. The paint is blended with natural gums collected from the babool tree to make it persistent on paper. The gum also gives the paint a gloss.
Coconut shells are used to keep the produced colours. Traditional Jadopatia painters made brushes from squirrel and goat hairs by fastening them with thread on a bamboo pole. They now use brushes that are commercially accessible.
Handmade paper and Canvas cloth have taken the position of palm tree leaves as a drawing medium. Various sheets of paper are put together in a row and supported by fabric to produce a scroll. The backing is frequently ancient saris, and the fabric patterns lend aesthetic complexity to the Jadopatia’s presentation.
The majority of Jadopatia artists use a pencil to outline the characters’ forms. Individual frames are separated by ornate borders that depict a certain scenario from the storey. Dark outlines are usually applied at the end of the painting process. Jadopatia artists have traditionally been men. Women have helped with colour preparation, but they have recently begun to paint as well.
The Content of Jadopatia Paintings
The usual subjects or contents of Jadopatia painting are –
- The fairs and festivals, mythology and social life of Santhals.
- Traditional Hindu epics (such as Ramayana and Mahabharata), popular legend and folk tales.
- Stories of afterlife (Yama Pata, Mrityu Pata etc.)
The Performance by Jadopatia Painters
Jadopatia performers have always relied on storytelling to make a living. The artists primarily worked in tribal Santhal communities, where they displayed their scrolls in homes where someone had died and sang the story in exchange for rice and other gifts. The artworks were arranged according to the deceased person’s life.
In today’s world, most artists have confined themselves to painting, and the tradition of singing storytelling is on the edge of extinction.
Present Condition of the Art and Artisans
The day-to-day existence of Jadopatias practitioners disappoints them. There aren’t enough buyers for their art, preventing them from living a secure and better life. It further prevents new generations from participating in this custom. As a result, unlike their forebears, artists of the new age do not rely solely on procedures. There are only a handful traditional artists practising the art form in the entire Dumka area. Ganpati Chitrakar, Nitai Chitrakar, and Deodhan Chitrakar of Nawasar village in Masalaiya block are the only ones we know of. The majority of the artists abandoned the practise since it was no longer financially viable. They have worked in a variety of fields, including carpentry, idol-making, tailoring, agricultural labour, and repair work.
The Future of Jadopatia Art and Artisans
The future of Jadopatia art appears to be bleak and uncertain. As if the absence of attempts by state governments and private organisations weren’t bad enough, the ongoing Covid-19 situation has exacerbated the issues. It’s difficult to estimate how many of the surviving practising artists will be able to keep working until the end of Covid-19.
To prevent this painting from becoming a thing of the past, the government, business organisations, NGOs, and people must act quickly.