Mandana paintings are one of India's oldest forms of tribal art that has survived over the centuries.
The Meenas, one of the oldest tribal communities, perform it in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
This art is done on the walls and floors of the house, both inside and outside, to ward off evil and welcome the blessings of the gods.
This painting is mostly done by women in the Meena community because it is traditionally their social role to take care of the house and family.
This art form is not taught in a formal setting and is not recognized as a discipline.
Girls, on the other hand, learn this art by observing and imitating their mothers.
Mandana refers to 'drawing' in the sense of Chitra Mandana or drawing a picture in the local language. Mandana comes from the term Mandan, which means "decoration and beauty."
Historically, they have been used as ornaments for exceptional or celebratory events by ladies of the Meena group for generations.
These occasions comprised collective religious service, festivals and fasts, and, finally, fortunate days in the community's existence, such as birth or marriage.
As they were created for spiritual purposes, the images generally depicted the festival's primary god.
This serves two functions at the same time:
a) the deity of the festival is summoned through the paintings
b) the images were also a symbolic depiction of the god or goddess.
These artworks' themes are influenced by beliefs about auspiciousness and good omens.
Shubh Manglik is the technical word for such patterns.
Many of the other patterns shown in the Mandana paintings are evocative of the designs of Vedic yagna altars, Vastu purasha mandalas, and ancient temple floor layouts.
A lot of patterns of Mandana paintings are directly influenced by architectural elements as well as geometry.
The ideal Mandana must be drawn and painted in a specific manner.
First, the walls or floors are plastered with clay, coupled with a combination of cow dung and water.
The images are drawn on the wall or floor with simple materials such as a date twig brush, a clump of hair, and cotton.
The motifs are then colored once they have been created.
The color scheme of these paintings is simple, consisting of white and red, and was chosen precisely because it is easily available in the community's natural surroundings.
The white paint, known as khadiya, is made of chalk, while the red paint, known as geru, is made of brick.
The drawings themselves are constructed in a very feminine manner and do not adhere to any fixed standards of proportion and perspective.
The motifs' filling is more textural than physiological.
The first and most obvious variation in Mandana paintings is the location of their occurrence - although in Rajasthan, they are painted on both walls and the floor, painters in Madhya Pradesh generally limit themselves to the floor.
As contemporary living and socio-economic growth have taken precedence over communal altruism, there appears to be very little time and place to pursue this skill.
Furthermore, there are practical issues that have hampered frequent practice. Homes in today's day and age, for example, are built of brick and mortar, even in most communities.
Clay walls or soil are one of the prerequisite requirements for the practice of this art since they absorb color and provide a particular relief and texture (that is distinctive of Mandana), making it possible to paint on walls.
Mandana art is disappearing, and artists are finding lesser jobs even within villages, as the number of concrete buildings increases, and concrete is not conducive to this art, which can only be made on clay walls, and there are fewer takers of the art as it is.
The Mandana art has been exiled from its centuries-long home — the walls and floors of houses – but it has found new homes.
The canvas is one such location.
More painters are being influenced by Mandana art and expressing themselves via the centuries-long language of expression created by Mandana artists.
Fabrics are another area where it is gaining a foothold.
Traditional patterns and artworks are becoming increasingly fashionable, creating a new niche for Mandana art to thrive.
Though Mandana art has suffered a significant decline in exposure and has fewer takers among villages as the number of concrete buildings has increased, the art retains its rustic beauty, and its paintings grace the walls of clients.
We hope that Mandana art will find a way to survive in these forms, if not in its conventional art.
Author: Akash R. Ekka
Editor: Rachita Biswas