Art behind bars transforms Varanasi jail

Art behind bars transforms Varanasi jail

Be it paintings depicting the incarnations of Hindu Gods and Goddesses or drawings exhibiting mother nature in various forms or intricate designs resembling wall-hangings, the range of art work on display on the prison walls is awesome. "They have given a fresh look to the entire complex," Jail Superintendent Suresh Chandra told reporters over telephone.

Of the five convicts behind this transformation, Chhotelal and Hari Prasad - who are serving life terms for murder - were the prime movers. They used paintbrushes made from human hair and colours extracted from flowers and plants in the jail gardens. It is certainly a welcome change from the earlier dingy, overcrowded and gloomy look of the jail that houses nearly 2,100 inmates.

"Believe me, it's very soothing for the eyes. Their work is really commendable," said Chandra. "With their innovation and hard work, prisoners have definitely given a strong message that ideas can be executed with even limited resources," he said. The jail authorities are planning to take their work to the public.

"We will definitely make every effort to showcase their talent. We may organise programmes in association with NGOs where paintings drawn by prisoners can be exhibited," said Chandra. The prisoners have inspired others as well and the five are being helped by other inmates in giving a new and colourful look to the jail. According to jail officials, the prisoners have just undertaken another project of making a massive painting of Saraswati, the Hindu Goddesses of knowledge, music and creative art.

"Like other paintings, this time also the prisoners have extracted colours by crushing rose, marigold and other flowers and leaves of plants on the jail premises," said Chandra. "The paintbrushes used by the prisoners are really innovative - they use tufts of hair," he said.

It was nearly six months ago when Chhotelal and Hari Prasad used their painting skills to beautify the jail. Originally, the two were assigned the task of cutting the jail's lawn but they started  experimenting with their work. They surprised everyone by cutting grass to depict a  religious symbol.

Thereafter, the two prisoners innovated with the paintbrush and started drawing small attractive figures on the prison walls. Later, with the support of the jail staff, they took up painting in a big way and started decorating the walls.