In the picturesque landscape of Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, the mud walls of Santal homes come alive with an explosion of color and creativity. The vibrant murals, lovingly crafted by Santal women, serve as more than just decorative expressions. For this close-knit tribal Santhal community, these artworks are a conduit to their gods and ancestors, believed to secure their well-being and prosperity.
This artistic tradition comes to life during Sohrai, a harvest festival that harmoniously coincides with Diwali and Kali Puja. It's a time when Santal women channel their artistic spirits onto the walls of their homes, turning them into canvases of cultural significance.
The Santals, India's largest tribal community, primarily reside in regions spanning Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and West Bengal. Their murals, characterized by precision and symmetry, feature geometric shapes, floral motifs, leaves, and trees. The walls are adorned with black bands at the bottom, creating a visually striking contrast.
One remarkable aspect of this art form is its adaptability. While traditionally earth colors such as red, black, and white were employed, Santal women have embraced modernity by incorporating neon shades into their designs. This infusion of contemporary elements preserves the essence of their heritage while reflecting the winds of change.
However, as concrete houses replace mud structures, the traditional Sohrai art faces new challenges. While providing longevity, these concrete walls lack the rustic charm of mud, altering the art landscape.
As we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti, let us draw inspiration from the Santali villagers' commitment to keeping their surroundings clean and beautiful. Just as they adorn their homes with colorful murals, we can contribute to a cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing environment by maintaining cleanliness and embracing the spirit of artistry in our daily lives. In essence, Sohrai art isn't merely a form of decoration; it's a living, evolving narrative that keeps communities rooted in their cultural heritage while embracing the shifts of time.