An ode to life-giving trees

An ode to life-giving trees

Since ancient times, trees in India have been regarded as sacred and objects of reverence, adornment and worship. The Kalpavriksha, or the wish-fulfilling tree, is one of the nine jewels that were churned out of the primal ocean. It remains one of the most pervasive motifs in all forms of artistic creations in the country.

Now, a city-based gallery - Arts of the Earth - which focuses on folk and tribal arts of India exclusively, has brought together paintings of ‘trees’ done in Mithila-style. 

Ten artists from the Mithila region of Bihar have produced an enchanting set of paintings on the different life-giving aspects of ‘trees.’ Aptly titled ‘Kalpvriksha,’ the exhibition is on at their Lado Sarai facility till March 25.  

Mithila painting is the oldest art form practised by women of Bihar. It was the result of the inner expression of women whose life was limited to the aangan of the house. Mithila art brings out the unique relationship between nature, culture and human beings. The images reflect nature in bounteous glory to invoke the blessings of various Gods of Hindu pantheon. 

Women painted the walls of Gosain ghar/Bhagwati ghar, Kohbar ghar and tulsi choura during festivals and other rituals like weddings, janeo (thread) ceremony etc. Mud walls were first coated with cow dung and after that given a fresh wash of lime. Paintings were done on these freshly prepared walls. The themes of the paintings for the walls of Bhagwati ghar were related to Goddess Durga and Kali.

It is interesting to know that in the Mithila region, a girl is wedded to the mango tree before she is betrothed to the groom. During vat-savitri, vad vriksha is worshipped by all married women. The banyan tree is considered to be the most auspicious tree signifying rootedness and strength. It is believed that all the gods and goddesses dwell in the banyan tree and by worshipping him all your wishes come true. 

The artists participating in this exhibition have followed three main art traditions in Mithila-style. These are known as Brahmin-Bharni, Kayastha-Katchni and Goidana-Tattoo style of the Harijan community. The exhibition tries to document the impact of nature on these artists and how each artist has expressed their devotion. 

Chandrakala Devi, a mallah (fisherwoman), has painted trees with village scenes. Trees with cows at the base are her favourite. Huge trees done by Urmila Devi Pasman, a Goidana artist, occupy most of her canvas showing daily activity of village life which are all dependent on trees for fuel, food and shelter. 

Her painting is typical Goidana/tattoo painting where the canvas is coated with cowdung and painted with natural colour. 

Baua Devi’s huge colourful trees depict the different colours of life associated with trees. Rambharos and Amrita with their motifs have depicted the freshness of life that a tree brings.

Younger artists Ruby and Sapna have shown trees in the most intricate way. Bandana has taken inspiration from trees in Mauritius while Puja has painted the typical kadamba tree associated with Lord Krishna. 

Manisha’s tree of life is a witness of all the changes which are taking place in our environment.  Global warming and deforestation are of much concern to her.  

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