Sohrai and Khovar Paintings

Sohrai and Khovar are not just art form but the celebration of the way of life

Lalit Bhatt
Lalit Bhatt

Sohrai and Khovar paintings are done by the tribal communities of Jharkhand to celebrate different aspects of life. Sohrai is celebrated in the month of October-November, a day after Diwali. Khovar paintings are done during the wedding season. In 2019, Khovar and Sohrai painting were accorded a Geographical Indication (GI) tag by the Government of India.

Sohrai Painting
Sohrai Painting

Sohrai paintings are created by the women of the community using natural pigments and plant extracts. The paintings have a strong tone of mother-child bond but may also depict scenes from everyday life, as well as religious and mythological themes. The colors used in Sohrai paintings are typically earthy tones like red, yellow, and black. Chewing twigs from the Sal tree are used as brushes.. The paintings are created on the walls and floors of homes, as well as on pots and other household items. The art tradition is passed from mother to daughter so we see fusions of multiple approaches with time as daughters get married to another village. Sohrai paintings depict strong matriarchal elements. 

The Khovar paintings are a celebration of the wedding season, which typically begins in January and lasts until the onset of the rainy season in June. The word “Khovar” is derived from two words – “Kho,” which means cave, and “var,” which means married couple. Interestingly, the Khovar paintings bear a striking resemblance to the rock paintings found in the Isko and Satpahar ranges near the Karanpura valley, which have been dated to be from 7000-4000 BC.

As part of the marriage custom, the groom traditionally spends the night at the bride’s home. To commemorate this occasion, the room in which he stays is decorated with murals created by the women on the bride’s side. These murals are an important aspect of the Khovar tradition and are highly valued for their artistic and cultural significance.

Both Sohrai and Khovar paintings are significant not only for their aesthetic value, but also for their cultural and spiritual significance. The paintings are believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the household, and are seen as a way to honor the gods and goddesses who preside over the harvest. They are also a way for the community to express their cultural identity and heritage, and to pass on their traditions and beliefs to future generations.

In recent years, Sohrai and Khovar paintings have gained recognition beyond the tribal communities of Jharkhand, and have become increasingly popular as a form of folk art. The paintings have been exhibited in galleries and museums across India and abroad, and have been featured in books and documentaries. This has helped to raise awareness of the rich cultural heritage of Jharkhand, and to promote the preservation and revival of traditional art forms.

Sohrai and Khovar paintings are a unique and vibrant form of folk art that reflect the cultural and spiritual traditions of the tribal communities of Jharkhand. These paintings are not only aesthetically beautiful, but also have a deep cultural and spiritual significance, and are a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the human spirit. By promoting and preserving these traditional art forms, we can help to ensure that they continue to be appreciated and enjoyed by generations to come.

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