Pithora Paintings are much more than colorful images on walls for the tribes of Rathwas, Bhilals, and Naykas of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh . They signify the advent of an auspicious occasion (like weddings, childbirth, festivals) in the family or community. An art form, which essentially conveys the joy and celebration of a community, has to reflect the collective mood of it, and Pithora paintings with their colors and animated figures mirrors the sentiments of their creators.
The essence of a Pithora painting lies in its earthiness; everything from the theme to the execution has the ethnicity of rural India. Even materials used are quite exotic: the colors are prepared by mixing pigments with milk and liquor prepared from the auspicious Mahuda tree. Indeed the joie de vivre of the community couldn't have found a more suitable mean of expression.
The tribes of Rathwas , Bhils and Nayaks of central Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh practice this Art form.
The Rathwas have a distinct cultural heritage and an interesting historical background. They mimic the upper caste of Tadagis in their way of life. They depend on the forests around them for a livelihood. The forests therefore are sacred for them. The family is the most important unit of this tribe and they practice arranged marriages, however clan exogamy is also observed. Their intrinsic aesthetics is evident in their quaintly done mud hits, which are adorned with colorful Pithora Paintings.
The ancient tribes of Bhils too practice this art form with meticulous diligence.
The Ritual called Pithora Paintings
Pithora Painting can be called a ritual rather that an art form for it is “performed” to thank God or for a wish or a boon to be granted. A comprehensive understanding of this ritual will call for a narrative- the head priest of the community who is called “Badwa”, is summoned when a problem occurs in a family. The problems are narrated to the Badwa “ who offers solutions, which almost always involves the painting of Pithoras on the walls of the house. The Pithora Baba is considered to be the reigning deity of the community and his presence is considered to be the solution of all problems. The first wall of the house is considered to be the right place for a Pithora. A Pithora is however, considered to be a three-wall affair, so the first wall and the other two walls around it are prepared for the painting. The walls to be painted are first plastered with mud and cow dung by the unmarried girls of the household, and then coated with chalk powder this process is called lipna. And then the painters proceed to do their work.