The Epics, Tales, and Daily Life Stories in Cherial Paintings

Colorful Cherial paintings from Telangana, India

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Cheriyal scroll painting (2010) by D. VaikuntamDastkari Haat Samiti

Painting the epics

Scrolls were used as aids for storytelling in oral traditions in many parts of India. In the Telangana region the Kaki Podugollu bards would travel from village to village. These storytellers would commission the Cherial artists to create painted scrolls for them. The original scrolls would be unraveled gradually as the visual backdrop to suit the narration. 

The entire scroll could be as long as 45 feet. Stories would usually be from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the most popular religious epics. The one shown in this picture is based on the life of Rama.

The painting has various important scenes from the Ramayana. This detail shows Dashratha, Rama’s father, going out to hunt.

The story of Rama and Sita’s wedding from the Ramayana is a popular subject.

This detail from the Ramayana scroll depicts Rama protecting the sages from the demons while they perform a religious ceremony.

This panel illustrates the episode where Rama frees Ahalya from her curse in the Ramayana.

Cheriyal scroll painting (2010) by D. VaikuntamDastkari Haat Samiti

Celebrating festivals

Along with the stories of the great epics, tales of the exploits of local heroes were also narrated against the backdrop of local festivals and practices. Local festivals like Bathukamma were popular with the painters and bards. This painting is based on the festival of Bathukamma, the worship of the Mother Goddess that celebrates life and nature.

Various scenes associated with the festival feature in the painting. Seen here, is the ritual of a woman offering a garland of flowers for Bathukamma.

The scroll also illustrates the bounty of the mother Goddess in the form of nature's fertility and its creatures.

Seen here is a woman carrying an offering of cooked food for the Mother Goddess.

The painting depicts the bard’s role in society. The Haridasu, or the bard, sings to bless villagers with a good harvest, for which a woman offers him a container of grain.

Seen here is a woman offering food to a holy man.

This panel depicts scenes from a wedding, which is a celebration of both, life and nature.

Cheriyal scroll painting (2010) by D. VaikuntamDastkari Haat Samiti

Daily village life

Religious epics, such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas, were popular subjects with Cherial artists and bards. What was unique in this region was that the stories were rooted in the practices and customs of the local communities. While the epics and festivals are popular, inspiration is also drawn from everyday village life.

This Cherial painting is based on local agricultural practices and shows the daily routine of farmers and their families.

This Cherial artwork shows villagers partaking in the bounty of the land as they cook and celebrate. Cooking and feasting are integral parts of post-harvest celebrations in many parts of India.

Men and women work together to perform agricultural tasks. Here, the Cherial art shows a couple at work in the field.

Various scenes from daily village life, like drawing water from the well using a pulley drawn by cattle, are shown in the painting.

Cherial paintings show farmers as industrious and cows as benign. These are subjects to which local viewers relate, as it reflects a part of their familiar lives.

Cheriyal scroll painting (2010) by D. VaikuntamDastkari Haat Samiti

Stories of hunting and gathering

The storytelling tradition has now been taken over by cinema and television. The original scrolls are no longer in demand. Today, the artists make abridged versions of the paintings to fit into a modern home. While the format is still similar to the original, select scenes are depicted to convey the spirit of the original story instead of all of it. Paintings based on the daily lives of the villagers are quite popular. This painting depicts 'The fruit gatherer and the hunter'.

In this curious scene, a man is seen pouring food into anthills to feed the ants. This shows respect for all forms of life and nature.

This section of a Cherial painting shows women collecting crabs from the water. While drawings of human figures, and even foliage, are fairly detailed, the crabs are drawn simplistically and appear almost comical.

This panel depicts hunting. The double-headed eagle symbolizes victory.

Another panel that shows the hunting scenes.

This scene shows fruits being gathered by a woman, while the man tries breaks the ripe ones from the tree.

The gathered fruits being taken home.

Read more about Cherial scroll paintings and masks here:

- Preparing Colours
- Cherial Scroll Painting
- Cherial Masks

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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