My name is Rathva Haribhai Maansinghbhai, from village Malaja, Chhota Udepur Taluka. I stay in Taloda fadiya. We are family of seven or eight people, four brothers and two sisters. We are a team of around 10 lakhara who do painting. We have learnt painting from our ancestors, in a generational tradition like Maansingh Dhanji, Dhanji Saja, after Saja Dhanji his father. We are doing this painting for generations. When my father used to go to paint I went with him. I studied up to the tenth standard and since I was in the seventh standard I used to go with my father wherever he went to paint in villages. I used to paint a little on the sides. And I got better and started painting myself.
When we do this Lakhara work, we do not go ourselves. Homeowners in various villages, send notru (invitations) to the Lakhara. On the Wednesday before, notru is sent to various devsthals. On Tuesday we are given it like an invitation. When the Ghardhani invites us, only then can we go there to paint. On Tuesday when we get there, we do ‘pandu’ by a girl. Pandu is clay, which is plastered on the wall. After which on Wednesday we start painting. We don’t start it just like that. We have coconut, chicken, alcohol. Five bowls of khakhra tree leaves, various colours in it are given along with cow's milk and alcohol of mahuda to create colours. After making the colours, we keep the kalash (bowl). Before starting, the homeowner or the boy or the girl for whom the vow is taken, is asked to hold the pen. Only after this do we start our work. The Ghardhani goes to the Badva with a podi and undertakes a vow for a boy or a girl or any relative. When it is completed the Badva gives the homemaker a period of four or five years to collect money. When the money comes in he is ready to get the painting done. When they do notra, the Badva comes and sings all night. Then they decide how to bring a Lakhara and from where. The Ghardhani and Badva decide to bring the Lakhara only from a certain village like Malaja, Hansda or Gunata. But only those Lakhara who do proper work. So they bring Notru for us on a Wednesday. We ask them if plastering or lipan has been done and tell them that we need to get the colours on Saturday, which is only available in one particular place, for generations. It is brought from Calcutta. So we bring colours from there including all other ingredients. After this we tell him to keep cow’s milk, special alcohol of mahuda, leaves of khakhra ready and also to bring pandu. So we come in the morning and start our Lakhara work. This particular colour has been used for generations from Calcutta like our forefathers did. This is a powder colour. You do not get this colour in Ahmedabad or in Delhi. For three walls we use around 1.5-2 litres of colour. This colour remains as it is for 25-30 years, completely undamaged.
First we only used to paint on the wall, but looking at the enthusiasm of research scholars who have immense interest in this painting, we also paint on canvas. We draw on canvas and they take it away with them. In many big offices like Tribal Sub-Plan in Gandhinagar, Delhi, they ask us to paint either on their walls or canvas.We also train children in Gandhinagar, Valley School in Banglore in Baba Pithora. Baba Pithora is our chief god and so we revere him highly.I myself have drawn this Pithora painting.
I will give you a brief explanation about various stories on Pithora painting. We Adivasis start the painting with the horse of Ganesh. We draw this horse first because we install Ganesh first during every auspicious occasion in our home. And then, we draw the red horse of Babo Pithoro holding the parrot in his hand. Usually, there are eight coloured horses. The next horse is of Pithorani holding a hand fan. Then the horse of Gamdev, who is the main god (dev) of the village (gam). And then comes the orange-coloured horse of Rani Kajal holding a comb in her hand. Thus, there is Rani Kajal, Babo Pithoro, Kathe Rano and Kali Koyal. Now, Kali Koyal never prepares her own nest, she lays eggs in the nest of the crow and runs away. When the small hatchlings come out from eggs, no one knows whose they are. Similarly, when Babo Pithoro was a child, everybody asked each other is this child yours? But, nobody knew the parents of Babo Pithoro. They had decided to float this child away in the river just like Lord Krishna. Rani Kajal who came to fetch water heard the cries of the child. She asked, Whose child is this? Rani Kajal did not have any child of her own, so she took him with her and weighed him on a golden weighing scale. She fed him milk from the akdo tree found in the jungle, and raised him. When he grew up, Rani Kajal got him married. The green horse is valen which signifies that when it rains everything becomes green including farms, if it does not rain we get nothing. There are suraj (sun) and chandra (moon). There is unti (camel) and shikari (hunter). There is mor (peacock) that gathers all animals of the jungle. Among the adivasi, when there is a wedding all gather and go together to a wedding. During this time, the papiya (hawk cuckoo or brainfever bird) does not come, but listens to everything in hiding. The wedding of Peacock has been fixed and he takes a lot of time to get ready for his wedding. Papiya during this time goes to Meghraj (Ind, Indra or lord of rain) and ask him about the status of the wedding preparations, and he replies that everything is ready. Taking advantage of the situation, Papiya gets himself married instead. Peacock came late for his own wedding while Papiya went early. Peacock asks Meghraj how long there is to wait for the wedding and Meghraj replies that the wedding is already over. On hearing this, peacock starts crying, which is the rain. Rain represents the tears of the peacock. Papiya gets to be the son-in-law of Meghraj. When the papiya chirps, Meghraj covers the sky with rain clouds. This represents the veil, honour among the Adivasi: the daughter-in-law always responds to calls covered in a veil. Then there are Lakhari-Jokhari: they write about Baba Pithoro like the god writes in our kundali (horoscope). Lakhari and Jokhari wrote the horoscope for Baba Pithora. They are responsible for writing everything. Just like the Badva or Bhuva is responsible for ensuring that we Lakharas have written everything, Lakhari and Jokhari do the same. We are also responsible for our work. People spend a lot of their money for this, in return we have to be responsible for our work.
There is Ashad, meaning border of any village like Ashala, Tejgadh. They have borders, which is called Ashad. There is Mama Karodiyo, on whose web a vandru (monkey) tries to climb but falls on the timbarva tree from which bidis are made. There is a tree which is black in colour. So when the monkey falls in this tree, his face becomes all black.
There is Baar Matha no Dhani (the enlightened one with 12 heads) or also Ravan who abducted Sita to Sri Lanka. He is recognized and worshipped as a god. Among Adivasi we know him as Baar Matha no Dhani. There is Patel (head) of our village, who is called during all important village events like melas. These three horses are of Nagarsi, who leads the marriage procession while playing the dhol and other instruments. There is Nakti Bhuten, who is protector of the jungles. One has to offer something to him like coconut, or alcohol. The Badva or Bhuva will get beaten if he does not make offerings to him.
The tree is called simdo and this bird is called bhamar, which is red in colour and only sits on the simdo tree. Adivasi call this marga (chicken) who is our cock who calls out. We also sacrifice it or a goat in our devsthals for gods or goddesses. It is said that when someone demands a large sum of money for work, like Rs. 50,000, if you feed him margi and mahuda alcohol, he would not even take Rs. 5,000. There is also farming, banjaran and a dog. Among all adivasi, he is a gift from the gods to us. There are adivasi playing dhol and dancing. When kadam is sown, they sing religious hymns and dance from morning to evening. The Badva sings religious hymns. There is Pani ni Paniyari (women filling water). There is Halun (chameleon) who changes its colours according to the season. There is a horse cart with the king and queen sitting in it. There is a person in a yellow and green cart to distribute invitations in the village for any event. There is Sevak (servant) of the elephant. This is recognized as Raja Bhoj who was a famous king. This is the main gate or border, in which cows, buffalos and goats are taken to graze. There is a lion and a goat or a deer, which cannot be caught easily. When there is something wrong in the village, only then can it be caught. When a man plays the shenai, he is allowed to go, and not get killed. For this during all festivals like Diwali, a goat is sacrificed in devsthals. There is the doli (palanquin), which is worshipped during festivals related to Lord Krishna like Jamashtami. Then there is making of chaas (buttermilk) from milk of cow or buffalo. This is called aklo, which is similar to the shivling of Lord Shankar. This is worshipped on a large scale. There is undh (boar) and rijh (bear) with his handler (guvadiyu). There is singhli, and she is seen collecting singhli. This is tad, which gives tadgoli, neero that is offered in Baba Pithora ritual and also drunk. There is the police Patel of the village who looks after all-important events like melas. He has the responsibility to resolve all disputes.
There is mahuda, when its leaves fall we make alcohol out of it. The alcohol is used to make colour, to drink and also to massage a sick child. We make oil out of the branches of the mahuda and use it to cook food. There is ullu (owl) and when it hoots it means something inauspicious is going to happen. There is also Kotha or Valo Vaniyo (trader). Whenever we want to get something, we have to go to Valo Vaniyo. There is also Kathiyo Rano Hudo who is very strict, who goes to invite everybody. The five horses are of Khatrej, which means heaven-residing ancestors. During all-important events or festivals, food or drink is first offered to Khatrej and then it is consumed. If they are not given offerings, they will immediately show their miracles.