Cherial (Cheriyal) Scroll Paintings
Cherial (Cheriyal) Scroll Paintings
Ancient Audio Visual Art, Chrerial (Cheriyal). Warangal, Andhra Pradesh
As our car meandered through the winding roads of Cherial (Cheriyal) village, it was a total disappointment. I expected houses with intricately painted scroll hanging from the walls, something which I have seen in Raghurajpur (Orissa) and Naya (West Bengal). But Cherial (Cheriyal), which is located in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh and is 100 km from Hyderabad, looks like any other Indian village.
We made our way past playing children, to the studio of famous Cherial (Cheriyal) Scroll Painter, D. Vaikuntham. Its just an ordinary house but a board outside said that it belonged to a National Award Winner.
His small studio looked haphazard, as it normally does. The artist himself was working on an inclined wooden desk.
From the walls hung scroll of all sizes, with their intricate artwork with bright shades of paints.
D. Vaikuntam, who spoke fluent English, explained that Cherial (Cheriyal)scroll painting is a dying art and is practiced only by a handful of families.
His brother D. Nageshwar, a state award winner, also practices the same trade and has his studio next door.
Scroll painting is one of the earliest forms of audio – visual entertainment. Hundreds of year ago, the story telling community of Kaki Podagollu used to travel through the villages of Telengana, singing and narrating stories using the scroll as their visual aid.
The scroll measures about 3 feet in width and can extend over 40 feet. The scrolls contain about 40 to 50 panels, each depicting a part of the story and would be displayed as the story unfolds.
The story, which is in the form of songs, is often accompanied by dolls which makes it a total audio – visual package.
The scroll painting of Rajasthan, Orissa and West Bengal focus mainly on religious aspects and mythology, this is where the artist from Cherial (Cheriyal) differ.
Their work is mainly focused on community specific storyline. In Cherial (Cheriyal), the painters as well as the narrators, focus on day to day lives of communities like fishermen, toddy tappers, cobblers, fruit gatherers, etc.
The scrolls also depicts the legends and mythologies of the communities along with their Gods and heroes.
Irrespective of the community or profession, each Cherial (Cheriyal) scroll starts with a panel of Ganapati, the God of wealth, followed by Sarswati, the Goddess of learning.
It is customary for the artist to seek blessing of the deities, in order to ensure that the art flourishes without any obstacle.
The Cherial (Cheriyal) Scroll painting is drawn on hand made khadi cloth specially processed with applying a paste of tamarind seed along with a tree gum and white clay.
Three coats of the paste are applied, allowing a day in between for the paste to dry.
Once the scroll is ready, the artist draws the outline, using a squirrel haired brush, in a phased manner.
The colours used in the Cherial (Cheriyal) Scroll Painting follows a predetermined system. The striking red colour fills the background.
The colour of the face and skin is decided by the nature of the character, like blue and yellow are for Gods and Goddesses respectively. Brown or darker shades are for demons, while pink and skin tones are for humans.
In the past, natural dyes were used. White was obtained from grounded sea shells, black from lamp soot, yellow from turmeric, blue from indigo and the others from various vegetable dyes and grounded stones.
Today the natural dyes have largely been replaced by commercial organic water colours, which are mixed with tree gums, before being applied on the scroll.
The water coloured based Cherial (Cheriyal) Scrolls are said to last over 300 years, provided they don’t come in contact with water.
Apart from the Scrolls, the Cherial (Cheriyal) artists also make dolls and masks. The smaller masks are made of coconut shell while the larger ones are made out of sawdust and tamarind seed paste.
The Cherial (Cheriyal) dolls are made of a light wood called tella puniki and is smeared with saw dust and tamarind seed paste.
Like the scroll, both the dolls and masks have bright colours.
Today the Cherial (Cheriyal) Scroll painting art still flourishes but with the advent of other forms of audio – visual entertainment and with the dwindling numbers of story tellers and balladeers, the Cherial artist are forced to modify their art form.
The long elongated scrolls are made smaller to fit in the walls of modern day drawing rooms and masks and dolls are customised into drawing room artifacts.
Cherial (Cheriyal) paintings have made their way on gift boxes, pen and candle stands and even on textiles, also Cherial (Cheriyal) dolls have been transformed into decorative key chains.
It is a great wonder that the art of Cherial (Cheriyal) scroll painting is alive, despite of the numerous challenges.
The passion of the Cherial (Cheriyal) artists have helped to preserve a valuable piece in India’s rich cultural mosaic.
Cherial (Cheriyal) has no places to stay. Its best to travel from Hyderabad (100 km away).
This trip was part of a FAM (familirazation) tour of Hyderabad and Warangal conducted by Andhra Paradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC). Special thanks to:
- Kalyani, Consultant Sales and Marketing, APTDC
- Dr. P. Jogi Naidu, Dy. Director (Retd.), Archeology and Museums, AP
- Kiran Mehata and Sunil Vidayanatahn my fellow FAM tour participant
- Surekha Adimulam and her Tharuni team
- Santosh our driver
- Haritah Hotels
- All the staff of APTDC