TRIBAL ART FROM THE “MEENA” COMMUNITY
Mandana art is one of the oldest surviving tribal art of India. Mandana is a name given to the paintings done on wall and floor by the women of Meenas community of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Mandana are drawn to draw health and to protect the house and family from evil and welcoming gods into the house. The art is auspicious and treated as a mark of celebrations on festive occasions. Similar paintings are also seen in most parts of Nepal with the name- Mandala.
Diwali, being the biggest Hindu festival, is the best time when we can see freshly prepared eye-catching Mandanas on the walls and floors of houses of Meena community in Rajasthan. Mandana decorates the house with beautiful motifs of tigers, peacocks, monkeys, cats and stylised Lakshmi feet.
Mandana tribal art is now becoming popular with the concept of theme interiors and introduction of folk art in modern designing and decor.
“MANDANA” IN LITERAL TERMS
In local language of Gujjar Bhakha (the Marwari language), “Mandana” means “Drawing“. It can be seen as a means of decoration where the completed Mandana is called “Chitra Mandana” simply means -Making a drawing or a painting.
Mandana is derived from the word “Mandan“, meaning decoration and beautification. Historically, they have been practiced as a way of decorating ones home at the time of festivals, religious ceremonies, marriage functions and other auspicious ceremonies.
Since Mandana are associated with religious purposes, the picture or main figure features the main deity of the festival. The deity of the festival is invoked in a way through these paintings and the pictures serves as a pictorial representation of the god or goddess.
THE “MEENA” COMMUNITY
The auspicious art of Mandana is mainly performed by one of the oldest tribal communities, the Meena, living in the Hadoti area and Sawai – Madhopur region of Rajasthan, India. They are skilled in developing beautiful designs on walls and floors with perfect symmetry and accuration.
Within the Meena community, this painting is predominantly done by women. Traditionally, the women of the household were assigned to take care of the their house and the family. They have to play social roles while living in communities and follows their ancient customs and rituals. Mandana art is one such ritual, which without any prior training, being passed in generations by the young girls just observing and emulating their mothers and grandmothers making Mandana.
In Madhya Pradesh, the art is mostly used as a floor decoration while in Rajasthan it is used both on walls and floors. The art is believed to ward off evil and welcome the blessings of gods into the home.
PREPARING CANVAS FOR MANDANA
Both walls and floors could be beautified with Mandana. The surface acts as the canvas which has to prepared prior to Mandana making. The surface is prepared by plastering it with mixture of cow dung , rati (local clay) and red ochre.
Motifs are drawn with either lime or chalk powder where the white chalk really complements the red color of the background. Brush is made out of a tuft of hair, or date twig. Thread is used to make circles and triangles.
The simplicity of a Mandana lies in its two colors – often red and white. White color or khadiya is made of chalk while the red color or geru is made of brick or red ochre.
The motifs in Mandana are associated with good luck and religious symbols. They are thus called ‘Shubh Manglik’ which means good luck. Popular festivals like Diwali, Teej, Falgun Krishna Saptmi etc have specific Mandana associated with them.
There are two basic categories of Mandana motifs – Vallhari pradhan (consists of floral patterns and living objects like- birds and animals) and Aakriti pradhanam (expressing the five elements of Prakriti (nature) like- triangle (fire), square (earth), circle (water), dot (ether) crescent-curve line (air) and geometric shapes).
- ‘Tapki Ke Mandanas’– The design includes number of points drawn in a specific manner to create 2-D geometrical shapes like triangles, squares, rhombus and rectangles.
- ‘jaali’ or lattice screen.
- Sheetala Satam Motif – On Falguna Krishna Saptami (Seven days after Holi) Goddess Sheetala is worshiped by the people in the Malwa region.
- Design inspired from altars of vedic yagna, the vastu purasha mandalas
- Deities like Lord Ganesha
- peacocks, tigers, floral motifs
- women at work
- Modern motifs – tractor, bus, bullock-cart, cycle, motorcycle, etc.
MANDANA ART IS DYING
Modern concrete houses with plastered walls snatches the space of Mandana painting at a very first place. Clay walls are fewer and fewer are the artists which are skilled in making beautiful Mandanas. With lots of commercialization, local artists (even in villages) find it difficult to gain livelihood from such folk arts.
The simplicity and beauty of Mandana is fading away. Such an art carries a part of the artist’s life and his experiences within itself. Over the years, Meena women have been recording their experiences in the form of Mandanas. Women are the best choice to perform such art forms because of their deep emotional values and love towards the soft forms of nature. But now women are employed and they have other works to do. Even the community rarely encourage traditional arts which were once and still can be the part of women employment.
Mandana is a legacy which runs in generations and that must be encouraged. The use of natural and eco-friendly materials in the art speaks about the harmonious balance between our traditions and mother nature.
Considerable decrease in the ancient canvas for Mandana, the walls and floors gave rise to new forms of Mandana art. Modern Mandana art can be seen on papers, fabrics, sarees and salwar kameez, in home decor items etc. The tradition is kept alive by Mandana enthusiasts by inventing new artistic techniques of using Mandana in modern looks by using glass, metal, wood, linen, cotton, ceramic, gold and terracotta materials.
Modern Mandana pieces adorn wall clocks, nameplates, wall-hangings, mirrors, pen-stands and anything which can be promoted in commercial markets. However, in Rajasthan, some new age resorts, cottages and heritage theme parks are exhibiting this dying folk art as a decor element in their interiors and exteriors with the help of local women from the nearby villages.
The market expanded from villages to towns with a modern twist and it’s time for all of us to revive this ancient art in every possible way we can.