Meanwhile, I meet my local contact who suggests a visit to the neighboring villages the next day. The morning looks beautiful, we are in October and it is not scorching hot. The road transforms quickly into country lanes and the driver weaves in and out of the numerous potholes.
On the road, we often stop to admire the creative inspiration of the peasant women and their luminous graphics which redesign the courtyards and the walls of adobe built houses.
House of Rajlawata Manchetta
Diwali revives the local bestiary and the diagrams inspired by the philosophical precepts of tantric art. My visual enthusiasm is a little tempered by my guide’s assertions who underlines the undeniable impoverishment of the repertoire and creativity. According to him, the countryside urbanization and the construction of cement houses are the main causes.
The villagers move away from unfired clay bricks which require frequent repairs after monsoons. If cement is a symbol of modernity and social achievement, it contributes widely to the disappearance of wall paintings called thapa. The young generation, more educated than their elders, feels reluctant to prepare the muddy mixture and therefore neglects this pictorial expression viewed as naive.
We arrive in a village inhabited mainly by Mina who belong to one of the most ancient tribes of Rajasthan. They live in the fertile plains of the East and are divided into two major clans: the high status Hindu landowners and the others who possess no land. In the 19th century, in spite of their prestigious ancestors, they were declared “criminal tribes” by the British and that until 1952 when the offensive list was repealed.
Perched on a hillock, it is a densely built up area and houses adapt themselves to uneven grounds by spreading harmoniously their volumes on different levels. Alignments, projections and recesses allow glimpses of terraces overlooking other open spaces. This is how I notice freshly painted mandana.
Strolling along the village streets draws people’s attention who question my companion about my coming.Thanks to Ashish, we are invited to enter patios and each time it is a source of wonder; hardly a spot in the courtyards which is not adorned.
The mandana adapt perfectly to the open-air hearth or chulha, honor the granary with an opalescent lacework, underline the platform’s edges, and transfigure premises. It is here, behind closed doors that women cook, sort out cereal crops, sun-dry peppers and cow dung cakes.
To celebrate goddess Lakshmi, the women painters coat the inside as well as the outer walls and terraces.
- Bindu, the dot or the root matrix of creation. The ultimate figure beyond which energy cannot be condensed.
- Trikon, the triangle, symbolic of the three guna (sattva, rajas and tamas), the three dimensions of time (present, past, future), the female and male principles (prakriti and purusha), the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the three goddesses or shakti (Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kali).
- Chaturkon, the quadrangle incarnates order, stability and represents the earth.
- Panchkon or a pentagon for the five elements.
- Shatkon or an hexagram symbolizing the unity of the male and female principles.
- Svastika or the four cardinal directions.Vrita, the circle indicates time and space.