Rock Art: Connecting dots of life from present to past

New Delhi, Jun 30 (FN Bureau) Digging deep into the past and the way of life much closer to nature’s flow, Cave Art paintings decipher a lot about the culture, society and moreover in simple words the ‘idea’ of how we lived. Those who once gave life to these forms and now the artists who create their masterpieces on the lines of history clearly have a thing to not only tell a story through their work but, to provide a glimpse of rich heritage and also the lineage. Talking of Cave Art, Rock Art in the Indian context, art lovers can hardly miss out on the Khovar and Sohrai of the Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh region.

The importance of harvest and the connection of the way of life in the region, especially for tribal directly with mother earth clearly reflects in the paintings and the art back in the day. Khovar or the Comb-Cut art is mainly done during the marriage season,‘Kho’ or ‘Koh’ meaning a cave or room and ‘var’ meaning bride, hence, Khovar a celebration of fertility and fecundity in marriage, said artist Dr Neelima Prasad Sinha while speaking to UNI. Dr Neelima, who as an artist taken the form to the international platform, is rooted in the world of art since an early age, and, has also discovered rock shelter art sites in Hazaribagh’s Salgah, initially known as Nautnagwa. ‘The wall paintings of the Hazaribagh area in Jharkhand, Central India are considered auspicious symbolic presences and intimately related to fertility and fecundity. The two major stylistic divisions are based on the harvest and marriage seasons; and the three major painting techniques are comb-cut; finger-cut and painting.

Khovar or the Comb-Cut art is mainly done during the marriage season,’ Dr Neelima said. Throwing more light on Khovar, she said that it is made by applying a coat of black mud to the walls of dwellings, and then when dry, a coat of kaolin-rich white mud is applied. Adding on to that Dr Neelima said , once the double coating is dry, a ‘comb-type tool’ is used to scrape back the white layer to reveal the black earth beneath. Many of the designs are archetypes and can be compared with prehistoric rock art and pottery markings, the imagery is inspired by life’s direct experiences of nature and much of the painting is done in darkened inner rooms.

Sohrai, on the other hand, is the winter harvest art and is painted using cloth swabs or chewed twigs of the local Saal tree, she further said. Sohrai is a harvest festival that is celebrated in Jharkhand as well as in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and the state of West Bengal. Talking about her research, she said ‘This is the most enchanting and illuminated phase of my life when I’m extracting the essence of my timeless research I did segmentation of my thesis and taking the real elements of rock and tribal art and interpreting it with new mediums and representations. Part of my ongoing fascination with folk art is based on a desire to find a visual language to develop my own version of the rock art In my research I’ve come across the art of Khovar and Sohrai.’ In the present times, Dr Neelima’s work has also been showcased in the Hammond Museum New York.