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Pithora Paintings: An ancient and sacred form of Wall Painting

A painting holds a deep relevance in India and is always associated with traditions and history. Pithora paintings are more of a ritualistic form of wall painting made by tribes known as Rathwas and Bhilalas of central Gujarat region, 90 km from Vadodara, in a village called Tejgadh. These paintings draw essence and inspiration from the lives of these people. Pithora paintings are considered very auspicious as they are believed to bring peace, prosperity and happiness in home. Another interesting feature of these paintings is that it is not imitated or inspired from nature at all. Pithora paintings are usually seen on three inter walls of the houses in these places A horse or a bull is usually painted at the centre to signify God. The quality, although, of Pithora painting is crude, but it is this feature only that adds beauty to these paintings.

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Pithora paintings find their roots in thousands of years old cave paintings of Gujarat. These paintings hold a deep social relevance and are the characteristic art tradition of Rathwa community. If you enter their houses you will find beautiful Pithora paintings always situated at the threshold, outside the first front wall or inside on the walls of the first room. The distinguishing feature of Pithora painting is a group of seven horses enclosed within a rectangular fence representing the seven hills that surround the geographical area. The wavy line depicts the river Narmada cuts in the painting. Three walls are selected for the painting, the front large central wall and the two on either side of it. The front or central wall (main wall) is very large, twice the size of each of the other selected sidewalls. These walls are first covered with two layers of cow dung paste and one layer of white chalk powder. Unmarried girls collect and bring these materials. This process is called as Leepna. The painters are called as lakhadas and do not belong to the family or house. The tribute and wish to be fulfilled is generally made to Baba Pithora (who is considered a deity there) before the start of painting. It takes days to prepare the final painting. The painting generally starts on Tuesday and ends by Wednesday. The two sidewalls are then painted with figures of minor deities and ancestors. The completion of the painting is celebrated with song, dance, feast and music. There are numerous different and wonderful designs and varieties of Pithora paintings with the smallest measuring one and a half feet and the largest 145 by 10 feet.

Pithora painting has a variety of connotations and beliefs. Objects like farms, trees, fields, birds, sun and moon are depicted in their relative positions along with people and their ancestors. Even modern objects like railway tracks, aero planes, and computers also feature the paintings, thus making it a real depiction of the world of Rathwa tribe.

Pithora painters even today have successfully managed to keep the essence and unique painting style still alive with changing environment.

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