Adorning the art of storytelling
Cheriyal Scroll Paintings, a stylized form of the Nakashi art, are among the wonders of the invaluable cultural heritage of Telangana. Crafted by the Nakashis or the Nakshis (as named by the Nizams), the paintings were made for Kaki Padagollu, a storytelling community in Warangal who displayed them while narrating portions from Indian epics and Puranas.
Hyderabad: Cheriyal Scroll Paintings, a stylized form of the Nakashi art, are among the wonders of the invaluable cultural heritage of Telangana.
Crafted by the Nakashis or the Nakshis (as named by the Nizams), the paintings were made for Kaki Padagollu, a storytelling community in Warangal who displayed them while narrating portions from Indian epics and Puranas.
The scrolls or pattas, unveiled with descriptions by the storyteller and based on the fable, were of varying lengths and widths. Folklore of communities like Gauda, Madiga etc., along with the stories of Krishna Lekha, Ramayana and Mahabharata, were painted by craftsman and retold at public spaces to educate the unlettered countryside masses.
Over the years, following the advent of more attractive visual mediums like television and cinema, balladeers disappeared from the countryside, forcing many Nakshis to leave their skills and find odd jobs to earn a decent living. However, there are a few, like D Vaikuntam and his family members, who still struggle to keep the art form alive and live with fond hope that it would regain its past glory.
Sitting in his little drawing-room-cum-workshop at Boduppal, Vaikuntam says: “It was my father’s dream to bring recognition to our art and to remain in it till his last breath. And, just like he said, even after encountering a massive paralysis attack, he made sure that my brother and I learnt every stroke and touch of our art form.”
Rakesh, Vaikuntam’s elder son, narrates that Nakashi paintings were also largely used as home décor items in the grand palaces of kings, on the walls of temples and in the houses of the affluent. The colours used are derived by grinding natural stones in a traditional manner.
The khadi cloth on which they paint is made stronger by a mixture of boiled tamarind seeds, rice starch, white mud and tree gum. “Though the amount of investment is low, the time consumed to produce the finest masterpiece takes a lot of time and labour.
So, even my mother Vanaja, my younger brother Vinay, and I help my father to carry on our ancestral craftsmanship.” he says. It is surprising to know that though only 5 to 10 colours are used, the art pieces could be preserved for a 100 years! Apart from painting on paper and cloth pieces, Vaikuntam also brings to life wooden boxes, pen holders, melamine plates, traditional Cheriyal masks and walls.
Vinay, his younger son who is a graduate in Fine Arts, wishes to reform the art with the knowledge he had acquired at his college. “I want to add bits of modern techniques to the ancient folk tales and create a new style of fusion in the art form. This will attract many other youngsters to learn the craft and also bring it into a limelight”, he says in a confident tone.
A National Merit Awardee, Vaikuntam shares that since his hard work has been recognized on several occasions, he is blessed with sufficient work from corporate firms and galleries, including Kalakriti Art Gallery and KCP Cements, to sustain his family.
He is concerned over the fate of those Nakashis who are waiting for an opportunity to showcase their potential. He wants the government to create space for a workshop to benefit all the crafts persons.
This would not just help nurture and develop the art, but also bring them closer to art lovers in Hyderabad. The art form would get the honour it deserves by letting the Nakashis beautify public spaces, he avers.
By Maitreyi Tadepalli