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Saura painting. Image Source: http://www.neuenhofer.de

Saura tribe (also known as Sora, Sabara, Saur) of Orissa are well known for their artistic acumen. Saura paintings are one of the famous tribal arts of India. Traditionally, these ritualistic pictographs were painted on the inside walls of their mud houses called ‘italons’.  Saura paintings were made to mark events such as birth of a child, a good harvest, and marriage.This form of art is mostly found in the Rayagada, Gajapati, and Koraput districts of Orissa.

For wall paintings, a brush is made from a bamboo split, black colour is collected from soot generated out of lamps, sun-dried rice is crushed to from white powder, and all these are mixed in water, and juice from roots and herbs to make a paste. The colour that is finally obtained is black and white.

Idital, the Saura deity, contains various symbols and meanings, and the Saura paintings primarily revolve around them. Their paintings are called ‘ikon’ and comprise of a set of sketches elaborately drawn on their walls.The artform reflects the everyday life of the Saura tribe. More details on the Saura tribe can be found here.It is estimated that nearly 70% of the Saura people have left their tribal life and their art is less popular among the younger generation Sauras.

Today, the Saura artists have started using hand-made paper and cloth as the medium for their paintings.   Due to their ‘marketability’ the Saura motifs have found their way to the mainstream through Sarees, and T-Shirts.  This ‘consumerism’ in the name of ‘supporting an art’ is deceptive. While we retain the focus on ‘art’, the livelihood of artisans must not be ignored. The paintings are part of their culture. It is true that a way to safeguard the art is to make it aesthetically pleasing to the new age customer. However, we must not diminish the ‘creativity’ and ‘individuality’ of the artist, by ignoring the cultural, and social significance of the art to the artist.  It is sad that commercialization has erased the rich culture of the art and the role of the artists  has metamorphosed into fancy decorators.