SAURA PAINTING (Tribal Art of Orissa)

Orissa is rich with tribal cultural assemblage. Sauras are one of the oldest tribes of India. Saura tribal paintings are mainly ‘wall murals’ in their houses based on religious and ceremonial themes.

These paintings convey great aesthetic sense reflecting their life style….the various symbols convey a special meaning and purpose.

Saura Art is mainly found in Rayagada,Gajapati and Koraput districts of Orissa.

The triangular forms of the body with stick like extremities are almost like ‘Warli’…, another tribal art belongs to Thane (near Pune- Maharashtra), but Saura art is colorful. The characters are white in warli and the culture depicted in Warli also is different.

In both Saura and Warli tribal arts, no features are drawn on the human face but the characters can tell us stories with their ‘gestures’ even without the facial expressions !!!…

Saura Painting

Now, about the above painting (Saura painting):

I have drawn this Saura painting on Tussar silk cloth. This is concerned with the worshipping of village deity during the first eating ceremony of sweet potatoes ( jungle roots ).

This deity is also prayed to cure diseases and to get blessings.

This pictogram consists of five divisions and a trianglular shrine on the top. Inside the shrine a man is blessed by the priest and a lady priest is seen with a garland. On the right 3 guards and on the left 3 lady worshippers with their offerings are seen.

In the 1st row from top, the Buya (male priest) is offering pork and wine to the deity (represented as heaped stone blocks) . Behind him we can see the devotees with various offerings like goat, fish, fowl, bananas, pumpkin etc…

The 2nd division shows driving out of the ‘evil spirit’ along with flute playing and other formalities.

The 3rd division shows 8 men standing with large crow bars to dig the earth symbolizing fertility.

The 4th division shows the ancestral spirits on a horse and an elephant marching with their servants and guards.

The 5th division shows the pets of Goddess earth such as garden lizard, crab, scorpion,snake, porkupine etc…

In the periphery, the various activities of the tribes showing their life style including deer and peacock hunting, a man fighting with a tiger are seen. You can also see the monkeys climbing over the triangular shrine, birds and monkeys on trees, turkeys, plantain and coconut trees, a man getting toddy from a coconut tree, a man selling mud pots, in the lower part chariot pulling with the music of percussion and wind instruments, dancers, visitors who have come to enjoy the rathayatra etc…

In the top you can see a spotted deer with grass inside. I saw this icon while browsing the net for saura paintings. The saura tribes wanted to show even the undigested grass inside the stomach of a deer. After seeing that, I also had an idea. I added an egg inside the garden lizard in the 5th division, as I have observed a white egg glistening through the stretched abdominal skin of some of the lizards!

Though it looks like a child’s scribbling, it conveys so many details of the activities of the Saura tribes, drawn even without the facial features. Hope you would have enjoyed this tribal art of Sauras…,I have depicted only a part of it !…

Dr. S. Premalatha., MD (Dermatology) PhD., FAMS

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