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  • THE DYING ART OF CHERIYAL SCROLLS

    Cheriyal is quiet village nearly a 100 odd kilometres from Hyderabad in the Warangal district of Telangana. This village with approximately 2000 residents and 600 plus houses is nothing different from any other village in any other part of India, until you visit the 4 households that have kept the dying art of Cheriyal scrolls alive today.

    The Cheriyal scrolls were renowned across India and the world for their unlettered form of story-telling. In fact these scrolls find mention in A Catalogue of the British Museum.Today this traditional art form has become limited only the village of Cheriyal.

    Image Credit - thebetterindia Image Credit - thebetterindia

    The canvas scrolls are made on Khadi and are hand painted with unique colours made from natural sources. There are a few characteristics that make the Cheriyal scrolls and paintings instantly recognizable such as the predominance of the colour Red in the background and the iconology of placing prominent figures in appropriate order. These scrolls are painted in a narrative format like comic strips or a film roll depicting scenes from Indian mythology like Krishna Leela, Ramayan, Mahabharatha among other folklore from the region.

    Image Credit - thebetterindia Image Credit - thebetterindia

    Tradition has it that these scrolls were used for educating the unlettered villagers and kept the local populace entertained at that time. The village poet or artist would use these scrolls as visual aid to tell people of these stories. Today, with the advent of TV, internet and magazines these scrolls have become a dying art and is just confined to the Cheriyal village. The artists have been forced to adapt and nowadays they paint smaller versions of the scrolls, sometimes limited to just one panel to depict single episodes from the stories.

    Another craft from Cheriyal that has continued to linger and survive is the contemporary Cheriyal dolls. These dolls are made of wood, sawdust and tamarind paste while the masks are made from dried coconut shells.

    Today, the government is doing all things possible to keep this tradition alive and theseCheriyal scrolls are regularly showcased in government run handicraft stores. While the Cheriyal scroll painting received Intellectual Property Rights Protection or Geographical Indication (GI) status in 2007, the families involved in this art form are anything but rich and now rely on education to equip their children for a better future.

    One such family is the husband-wife duo of Vanaja and Ganesh. Both Vanaja and Ganesh are government recognized artists and have made murals for the visit of dignitaries including that of President Pranab Mukherjee’s to Nagpur. They also travel to various locations across the country conducting workshops on Cheriyal scrolls for various state governments and helping spread awareness about this dying art form. The couple run a Cheriyal painting workshop for teaching the basic techniques of scroll making to the neighbourhood children with which they hope they can revive this dying art.

    There are many such artists in Tamil Nadu too who are keeping their culture and art alive, read about them here at: http://www.tnartisaan.com/

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