Khovar Paintings

A matriarchal art inspired by rock arts of the regions of Hazaribagh, done totally using natural earth (black and white) by women of the household during marriage ceremonies to welcome and bless the newlywed couple.
The Khovar art depicts the socio-religious tradition of preparing a marriage room. The khovar is, strictly speaking the bridal room, and the decorated nuptial room is a tribal tradition. The decoration is done in this room in the bride’s house by the bride’s mother and aunts, because in the tribal system bride-price is paid, and the bridegroom spends the nuptial night in his wife’s house, which is the influence of the original matriarchal system. Since the tribal woman is revered as Devi, the mother goddess, the woman is a very special person. Upon marriage she becomes Devi and anything made by her hands is considered the gift of the mother goddess. The Devi is the sole person allowed to draw or embroider ritual sacred icons relating to marriage and harvest seasons, and it is an ancient tradition. Bride-price is still paid in the tribal villages of Hazaribagh. The marriage season runs from January till the onset of the monsoons in June and overlaps the summer months when the great annual spring and summer hunts take place.
The Khovar art is full of jungle plants and animals. Even today the forest is considered by nomadic tribes the place where a couple have to go to consummate the marriage (Figure 2). The Khovar art is done by scraping the upper coat of white or yellow liquid earth ochre which reveals the black or red undercoat when it is scraped off with a comb.
The most interesting aspect of the Hazaribagh animal and bird forms and the most striking quality they possess are the relationships between the forms themselves, and the relationships between the birds and animals with their young, a trait found in the Indus painted forms. This relationship is of a purely matriarchal nature, such as deer and goats feeding their young, or birds feeding their chicks with fish and insects. There are interesting relationships between the animals themselves, such as a peacock or mongoose fighting with a snake, or snakes fighting among themselves, or the mother peacock with a young chick on its back, peacocks fighting, or a peahen breaking an egg. The knowledge of plant life is extensive, as would be expected of jungle-dwellers. These murals are of a matriarchal tradition and the art painted on the houses is done by the village women and young girls, whom they apprentice in a handed down parampara tradition, when the young girls learn the art forms and convert them to memory. They take them to their husband’s home, which possesses other art forms of its own. One can see a range of stylistic differences in a village home, in which various sisters-in-laws and the old mother-in-law herself have brought stylistic trends from another village.
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(Courtesy: Shri Bulu Imam )