The various art and craft forms of Madhya Pradesh are :
The textiles of Madhya Pradesh are a part of the rich heritage of India. The weaving, printing and colouring of textiles of Madhya Pradesh have been influenced by the bordering States of Orissa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, but at the same time they have developed their own distinctive style and individuality.
Hand block printing is among the important crafts of Madhya Pradesh. The popular colours used in this process are vegetable and natural dyes like Indigo, turmeric roots, pomegranate skin, lac, iron, and other substances that create an effect that is rich yet subtle. These natural colours do not fade easily, permeate the fabric and lend it an attractive look. The Malwa and Nimar regions are renowned for their hand block-printed cotton textiles. Bherongarh near Ujjain, has large printer communities who specialise in lugda, jajams, oudhnis and quilts. Jawad specialises in Nandana prints which consist of traditional motifs in fast colours. In Tarapur and Umedhpur, indigo is still used in printing. The printed textiles of Bagh located in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, are the piece-de-resistance of hand block-printing. These are created by a community of printers called 'Chheepa' derived from the Hindi word "chhapna" meaning printing. The printers of Bagh as well as Kukshi and Manawar use vegetable and natural dyes, specially extracted from roots of "Aal" or madder. The resultant colours are bright shades of red and black and also occasional indigo. The blocks are made of intricately stylized motifs, which have evolved over hundred of years. These prints have a tonal and a three dimensional effect which is impossible to replicate in the screen printing or machine printing process. Bagh printing - a connoisseur's choice, has become a national and international favourite. The other important printing centres in the State are Ujjain, Indore and Mandsaur.
The art of tying and dyeing fabric is known as Bandhani or Bandhej in Madhya Pradesh. This delicate technique represents the earliest forms of resist patterning. In this process, parts of the fabric are tied with thread or twined into minute knots and then dipped in dye. Mandsaur produces excellent bandhanis. In Indore and Ujjain also, craftspersons produce exquisite samples of tie and dye.
Batik is a resist process in which the fabric is painted with molten wax and then dyed in cold dyes. Batik is done on a large scale in Indore and Bherongarh. Multi coloured and variously designed Batik sarees are popular and attractive for their contrast colour schemes. Apart from sarees, dress material, bed sheets, lungis, dupattas etc. are also made here.
Madhya Pradesh is famous for its delicate weaves in Chanderi and Maheshwari sarees. In Chanderi, traditional craftspersons used silk as warp and fine cotton as weft. The Chanderi cotton sarees are ideal summer wear. Usually in subtle hues, they have a sophistication hard to match. In the silk "Zari" sarees, craft influences of the Varanasi style are visible. The sarees generally have a rich gold border and two gold bands on the pallav. The more expensive sarees have gold checks with lotus roundels all over which are known as butis. Maheshwar on the banks of Narmada, is an important centre. The Maheshwari saree, mostly in cotton and silk, is characterised by its simplicity. The body is either chequered, plain or has stripes, combined with complementary colours. The reversible border of the saree which can be worn either side, is a speciality. It has a variety of leaves and flowers on the border, in karnphool pattern, which is quite popular. The pallav of Maheshwari saree is also distinctive with five stripes, three coloured and two white alternating. Nowadays these sarees are made in natural and artificial silk as well. Tussar silk is known by its Sanskrit name 'kosa'. Champa is the important centre for tussar silk sarees and fabrics, where the weaving is done by the Devangan community. These sarees radiate a natural brilliance due to the fibre used. Brocade work is done with Zari to give them an ornate look. The pallavs and borders of the sarees are woven with thread, coloured in the Ikat style to give it a designer touch. Apart from sarees, a wide range of tussar dress material is also available. The Kostha weavers make sarees called 'Mailooga' and 'Gamchha'. These sarees have simple designs and are worn by the Gond, Baiga and Kanwar tribals. For the Muria, Maria, Dhruva and Gadba tribals, the local weavers weave special dresses for folk dance performances namely Dhruva-Bandhipata and Tual. Special weaving is done using coloured threads (red and brown) of the 'Aal' (madder) tree roots.
The floor coverings of Madhya Pradesh consist mainly of durries and carpets in a rich variety of designs. A durrie, essentially a thick cotton woven fabric, is meant for spreading on the floor, and is made all over Madhya Pradesh, especially near Sironj. Apart from Sironj, Jhabua, Jabalpur and Shahdol are leading centres of durrie weaving in Madhya Pradesh. The basic technique of weaving a durrie in its most primitive form, can be seen in rural areas. The more universal durries are made by women in their homes, in the 'Punja' technique. They are usually in bold patterns and bright colours with folk designs. Cotton and woollen punja durries, handwoven in various colours are designed to suit traditional as well as modern home decor. Patterns are generally based on kiln designs, geometric traditional motifs & animal and human figures.
Since the Mughal times, Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh has carved a niche for itself in the weaving of carpets. Later on, weaving also began in the Shahdol & Mandla belt. The carpet weavers of Madhya Pradesh are undisputed masters of not only weaving carpets but dyeing also. The colouring was earlier done by means of natural dyes, but presently it is being done with synthetic dyes as well. Pattern is an integral part of knotted carpets and traditional patterns have continued with varying combinations since the last 200 years. Woollen carpets are available in vibrant colours with both floral and geometric designs. The weavers have used their ingenuity to transform traditional motifs into modern designs; drawing from the treasury of ancestral motifs: trees and flowers in carefully blended colours.
The craft of Zari work is concentrated in Bhopal, which is famous for its exquisite craftsmanship. Also practised in Gwalior and Indore, its origin can be traced back to 300 years. Today traditional articles have been replaced by modern purses, bags, tea cozies, and "jutties" or slippers.
Jute is the cheapest and most important of all textile fibres. It is used extensively in manufacturing different types of packaging material for agricultural and industrial products. Its coarse character has a unique charm while natural colour, heavy texture and twilly kind of body typify its earthiness. Jute handicrafts are available at Bhopal, Indore and Gwalior. The items include hanging lamps, baskets, flower vases, swings, hammocks, purses, table mats and footwear etc.
Throughout different periods of history, we find a definite established tradition of painting on various objects, particularly on intimate objects of everyday use, floors and walls; and in almost every instance the depiction being associated with some ritual. Folk paintings of Madhya Pradesh, specially the wall paintings of Bundelkhand, Gondwana, Nimar and Malwa are living expressions of people, intrinsically linked with the socio-cultural ambiance of the area. They are not mere decorations but also spontaneous outpourings of religious devotions. The paintings, based on local festivals like Karwa Chauth, Deepawali, Ahoi Ashtami, Nag Panchmi, Sanjhi etc. are usually done by women using simple home made colours. In Bundelkhand, painting is usually done by a caste of professional painters called Chiteras. In the paintings, mud plaster base is used, over which linear patterns are etched with fingers: the process is called 'Lipai'. The women of the Rajwar community are specialists in 'Lipai', whereas Pando & Satnami communities make linear designs similar to a woven fabric. The Bhils and Bhilala tribes of Madhya Pradesh paint myths related to creation called Pithora paintings. Horses, elephants, tigers, birds, gods, men and objects of daily life are painted in bright multi coloured hues. In the Gondwana region, unmatched creative vision has been shown by the Gond and the Pardhan tribes who have impressed audiences at exhibitions in Japan, France, Australia and other countries. The Malwa, Nimar and Tanwarghar regions of Madhya Pradesh are known for their Mandana wall and floor painting traditions. Red clay and cow dung mixture is used as base material to plaster the surface against which white drawings stand out in contrast. Peacocks, cats, lions, goojari, bawari, swastik and chowk are some motifs of this style.
In the interiors of Madhya Pradesh villages, the crafts persons practise traditional skills and techniques to craft iron in myriad inimitable forms. Iron crafting begins with obtaining iron ore from local mines which the ironsmiths mould into various shapes and forms. Gond, Muria, Bhatra, Dhruva tribals, practise the tradition of offering horses, swings, trishuls etc. made out of iron, to gods on fulfilment of their wishes. There is also a custom of gifting to daughters exquisitely carved "Deeyas" on their wedding. Keeping pace with changing times and tastes of buyers, today crafts persons produce various objects: birds, carved deeyas, candle stands, lattice, furniture, lamps and decorative items, each piece an object'd'art enabling the craft to reach its zenith. Tribal statues have come to occupy a very special place in modern day interior decoration and tribal artisans have won the recognition they so rightly deserve.
The Metal Craft of Madhya Pradesh stands apart in concept and workmanship alike for centuries. Metal ornaments boxes, lamps, rice measure bowls animal figurines are a few examples of the ingenuity of crafts persons of Madhya Pradesh. These metal images invested with peculiar indigenous socio- religious history are considered auspicious.
The art of wood carving has flourished in many parts of Madhya Pradesh, and the beautifully embellished wooden ceilings, doors and lintels with finely carved designs are silent testimonials of its glory. The wood carvers of Madhya Pradesh, with great sensitivity and skill transform different varieties of wood such as shisham, teak, dhudi, sal and kikar into works of art. Besides the famous wooden memorials, the crafts persons of Malwa, Nimar and Bundelkhand, Sheopur-Kalan, and Rewa also make pipes, masks, doors, window frames and sculptures. Madhya Pradesh also offers a variety of painted and lacquered woodcraft items such as toys, boxes, bedposts, cradleposts and flower vases. The major centres of this art are Gwalior, Sheopur-Kalan (Morena), Rewa and Budhni (Raisen).
Delightful looking in various forms, skillfully crafted and gaily painted, the stuffed leather toys of Madhya Pradesh are very attractive. Leather work has been practiced since a number of years in Madhya Pradesh. Craftspersons in Gwalior, Indore and Dewas specialise in making leather shoes, jutties, leather bags, mushk etc. With time the craft has evolved and given rise to new products. Today, Indore and Dewas are making leather garments & Gwalior is making shoes on a big scale.
Brass work occupies an important place in the craftsmanship of the Bastar tribes. The urge for creativeness reflects in most of the images made of the brass and bell metal. For preparing these figures they follow the ancient cire-perdue process. First the earthen core is made, then wax is shaped on the object which is ultimately replaced by molten metal. The products include, animal and human figures, deities etc.
Papier Mache, a craft practised since time immemorial, finds expression in varied forms. In Madhya Pradesh, the main centre for papier mache is Ujjain, but it is also practised in Gwalior, Bhopal and Ratlam. The Nagvanshi community, which makes mud toys and dolls, is also engaged in making of papier mache articles. The traditional expression of this craft was the creation of ornate articles like vases, figurines and icons. Today, crafts persons in Bhopal and Gwalior make statues, birds, animals and decorative panels. In Ujjain, the craft of papier mache brings to life different kinds of splendidly crafted birds with the artisans using natural colours to create exact replicas of living birds. Presently, the crafts persons are also experimenting with ways of creating decorative pottery and furniture in papier mache.
Pottery has been called the lyric of handicrafts. It symbolises man's first attempt at craftmanship. The colours of terracotta articles and figures vary from pink, red, brown to light and dark grey. The terracotta products of each region in Madhya Pradesh have their own identity and distinctiveness. The art of moulding terracotta in Madhya Pradesh shows a mature ability, the pantheon being even more varied and localised. In the rural areas, it is common to see terracotta animal figures placed under trees and in shrines made by potters. The famous traditional statues of elephants, serpents, birds and horses are incomparable in simplicity. The lifesize images of human forms are among the finest examples of Bundelkhand terracotta.
Bamboo & Cane articles are mainly produced in Shahdol, Balaghat, Mandla and Seoni regions of Madhya Pradesh. These are generally made by a community called Basor or Basod, who sell them in weekly markets. The artisans have skillfully harmonised their age-old knowledge and techniques with new designs, to meet modern market demands. The Gond, Baiga and Korku tribal communities are highly skilled in the craft of bamboo.
Cute little dolls made out of small cloth pieces are produced in Gwalior, Bhopal and Jhabua. The work of Battobai, a craftswoman from Gwalior has achieved international fame. The dolls made here are interesting pieces of work, influenced by different cultures and traditions of India mirroring the diversity and uniqueness of the country
The folk jewellery of Madhya Pradesh is most distinctive, highly artistic, elaborate and varied. The various cultural regions have their own distinct styles. Jewellery is available in a variety of gold, silver, bronze and mixed metal. Other major centres for folk ornaments are Tikamgarh, Jhabua and Sheopur-Kalan. Ornaments made of beads, cowries and feathers are part of tribal costumes. Tribal metalsmiths often fashion ornaments by the age old process of cire perdue casting, or lost wax process. For each technique, there is a specialised craftsperson whose family has been practicing this hereditary craft for over three to four generations. The rural and tribal women folk of Malwa and Nimar regions in Madhya Pradesh are exceptionally fond of ornaments, and both men and women wear ornaments.
Tattooing is widely practiced among the Adivasis of Madhya Pradesh. They treat the tattoo marks as worthy of social importance. Tattooing is mostly done by mutual help.
The important Folk Dance Forms of Madhya Pradesh are :
The most popular among the Madhya Pradesh dances, is the Gaur dance of the Sing Marias or Tallaguda Marias (bison-horn Marias) of South Bastar. This spectacular dance symbolizes the hunting spirit of the tribe. The word 'Gaur' means a ferocious bison. The invitation for a dance is given by sounding a bamboo trumpet or a horn. Wearing head-dresses frilled with stringed 'cowries' and plumes of peacock feathers fastened to them the men folk with flutes and drums make their way to the dancing ground. Women adorned with brass fillets and bead necklaces over their tattooed bodies soon join the assemblage. They carry dancing sticks called Tirududi in their right hands and tap them to conform with the drum-beats. They dance in their own groups by the side of the male members. But they also take the liberty to cross and re-cross in between the groups of male dancers and drummers. Their jingling anklets correspond to the songs of their lips as they move. The men beat the drums, tossing the horns and feathers of their head-gears to the rising tempo that gives the dance a wilder touch. The men with drums usually move in a circle and create a variety of dancing patterns when they are spirited. In the bison dance (Gaur) they attack one another and chase the female dancers. The Marias imitate a number of bison movements. Most of them perform like frisky bulls, hurling wisps of grass into air, charging and tossing horns.
The Murias of North Bastar are trained in the Ghotul for all types of their community dances. Before any dance is commenced at a wedding or a festive occasion, the Murias first worship their drums. Very often they begin with an invocation to 'Lingo Pen', the phallic deity of the tribe and the founder of the Ghotul institution. To a Muria, Lingo Pen was the first musician who taught the art of drumming to the tribal boys. The dancing site is chosen near the Ghotul compound. On marriage celebrations, the Muria boys and girls perform a dance called Har Endanna. The dance commences with a group of boys carrying ritualistic offerings and gifts and conducting the bridegroom to the ceremonial place. In this light and happy dance, there are a variety of movements with the boy and the girl dancers and drummers participating to move in patterns with running steps and circles then changing directions, kneeling, bending and jumping. The movements of the drummers as they dance and manipulate their drums is fascinating.
Young boys of the plains of Chhattisgarh bring life to the post-harvest time by the Saila dance. Saila is a stick-dance and is popular among the people of Sarguja, Chhindwara and Baitul districts. But in these places, Saila is known by Danda Nach or Dandar Pate. The Saila often comes out with many variations and much buffoonery. Sometimes the dancers form a circle, each standing on one leg and supporting himself by holding on to the man in front. Then they all hop together round and round. Sometimes they pair off, or go round in a single or double line, occasionally, climbing on each other's back. The climax of a day's Saila, is the great Snake Dance. The Saila songs, of which the refrain is the monotonous Nanare nana are usually of a progressive character leading to a highly vulgar conclusion. Saila comprises over half a dozen varieties. Some of them are named as the Baithiki Saila, the Artari Saila, the Thadi Saila, the Chamka Kunda Saila, the Chakramar Saila (lizard's dance) and the Shikari Saila. Each variation has a certain theme and distinctive feature of its own.
Among the Gonds and the Baigas of Chhattisgarh and the Oraons of the north-west fringes of Madhya Pradesh, the Karma dance is very common. This form is associated with the fertility cult and essentially related to the Karma festival that falls in the month of August. The Karma dance symbolizes the bringing of green branches of the forest in the spring. Sometimes a tree is actually set up in the village and people dance round it. The dance is filled with breath of trees. The men leap forward to a rapid roll of drums. Bending low to the ground the women dance, their feet moving in perfect rhythm to and fro, until the group of singers advances towards them. There are other variants of the Karma. The songs associated with these variants differ with each pattern. The Thadi, the Lahaki, the Khalha, the Jhumar and the Jharpat are the variations of Baiga Adivasis dance. The Karma seems to have been the oldest dance form of the Adivasis of Madhya Pradesh. It is the only dance which is common to the many ethnic groups of India.
The dance of the Hill Marias of the Abujhmar mountains is quite different. In one of their dance-forms they carry dummy horses on their shoulders and move slowly into a wide circle. Kaksar is a festival dance, performed by the Abhujmaria of Bastar. Prior to the rains, the Maria cultivators in every village worship the deity for reaping a rich harvest. To invoke the blessing of the deity, Kaksar, a group dance, in which young boys and girls take part, is performed. Boys put on a peculiar costume of a long white robe while girls are clad in all their finery. The dance presents to both girls and boys, a unique opportunity to choose their life partners, and marriage is enthusiastically celebrated afterwards. There is a rhythm and melody in this dance. The melodious music, the tinkling of the bells combine to create an atmosphere of spell and enchantment.
The Chaitra festival dance is another famous dance of the Gonds of Bastar district; it is performed after the harvest to thank goddess Annapurna for the harvest already gathered and to seek her blessings for the next crop. Men and women dance in a circle, in semi-circles or in rows; all dancers hold each other's waist. A peacock feather on the head is a distinctive mark and the dancers wear colourful costumes, adorning themselves with garlands of shells and pearls. As the dancers go round in rhythmic movements, their feet beat to the music of the Shehnai, Nagada, Timki, Tapri, Dholak and Maduri. Sometimes, the Singha and Kohuk; wind instruments are also played. The Rina is the women's dance. It is called Tapadi among the Baigas. The Gond women of Mandla district start the Rina just after the festival of Diwali.
The Sua or Sugga dance of the women of Chhattisgarh and the Mikal Hills is significant for its elegance and grace. The word 'Sua' means a parrot. The women take recourse to this dance a month in advance of the festival of Diwali. While dancing, the women lift their feet in imagination of a parrot-walk, then bend and jerk their heads in bird-like fashion to the clapping of hands. Groups of girls often go on long trips to the adjoining villages to display their excellence in this dance. Similarly they receive groups of girls visiting their own village. They prepare a wooden Sugga (a parrot) and place it on an earthen pot covered with paddy shoots. One of the girls carries the pot on her head and stands as a revolving figure in the middle of the group to face the dancing row when the opposite row of the girls alternatively stops. In this dance no instrument is used with the exception of a wooden clapper named Thiski is played to provide rhythm, where the Gonds and the Baigas predominate.
The folk-dances of the hilly tracts of the Vindhyas are more indigenous and recreational. Not a single ceremonial occasion passes in any community without dance and music. The Bhils who inhabit the Vindhya ranges and the banks of the Narmada are traditionally prone to their Bhagoriah and Gavar dances. Their instruments are an ordinary Mandal (big drum) and a Thali (brass plate). Hundreds of men and women join and move in a circle with wild shouts and lusty songs to the noisy abandon of the beat of drums. The Bhagoriah is typical of ecstasy and vibrating spectacle. Men waving bows and arrows synchronize their movements and stamping of feet with verve. During the Holi festival in Phalguna (Feburary) the Bhils and the Garasias perform a dance called the Ger. The women of both these tribes also dance the Loor. They form a circle and then holding their hands, they dance the Loor with forward and backward movements. In the Pali dance, the women form two rows. The Duipali, the Pachmundya Pali and the Ondi-Chiti Pali are the other forms of the Pali dance.
Some of the indigenous folk-dances of Madhya Pradesh are by nomadic tribes like the Banjara and the Kanjar of Bhopal commissionary. In this area, one comes across a dance form known as Lehangi. In the middle of the rainy season when nature comes to bloom the Lehangi is danced by young men over the beat of sticks which they hold in their hands. The Kanjars are professional acrobats. They dance with full poise and acrobatic tricks. On the Rakhi festival, the Banjaras of Nimad dance the Lehangi. When the festival of Dussehra approaches they start dancing Garbi and Dandia. Banjara dancers have a remarkable similarity in their mode. The men accompany the women either with songs or instruments. The Banjara women are heavily decked with silver jewellery and wrapped in colourful clothes of contrasting embroidery and tiny inset of scintillating mirrors. In the Lota dance, with all the ornaments and heavy clothes, they balance big-size metal pots on their heads as they swing in a liner or a circular formation.
The tableland of Malwa has comparatively very few dances. On wedding occasions, the countryside women of this part perform the 'Matki' dance with an earthen pot balanced on the head, the Matki is mostly danced solo. Sometimes just for merriment a couple of women join the main dancer who usually dances with a veil on her face. The two other variations of the Matki are the Aada and Khada Nach.
When rabi crops sway in the fields in full bloom, the parties from different villages join together and perform the Grida dance. It continues from morning till evening. The host village returns the visit next year by going to the village of their guests of the preceding year. The dance has three distinct phases: (1) Sela - The feet movements are slow and comparatively rigid. (2) Selalarki - The feet movements become brisker and faster. (3) Selabhadoni - With the acceleration of the tempo, every limb of the body begins to sway in mood of exaltation.
The folk musical map of Madhya Pradesh has certain predominant features. The people seldom confine themselves to their own songs except when singing ritualistic songs and the one's related to wedding ceremonies. The peasant class has no taboo to sing popular songs of other racial groups. Singing up participation is instinctive and unavoidable. The folk musical material of the state may be classified into three groups :
The tribal music is undoubtedly very rich in content.
It includes legendry narratives, ceremonial songs, work songs and the songs linked with rituals, love longings and occupations. Its music survives in cross-cultural traits of social relationships. Its structural shades vary from caste to caste and from region to region.
The third group of songs has a close affinity with the Bhakti cult of the medieval period. The vast concourse of these songs draws themes from mythology and ranges from the traditional Harikatha to the simple rendering of old Bhajans, art songs, lyrics of poets Chandra Sakhi and Sukhai and the devotional songs attributed to Ramdev, etc. Thousands of songs and Vaishnav padas are sung into varied complexion under religious and devotional fervour. Some of the complexions even admit embellishment and to a small degree tanas and alap in their stylized crudeness.
The drums are of various types and the technique of drumming among the tribals is fascinating. In Bastar there are big drums played by sticks. The Bhils use heavy Dhols and Mandals. There are small -sized drums. The Durbari of the Bhils, that is the Dumri of the Gonds is identical to the Goga Dhol of Dandakaranya. The Mandri is a mini Mandal. Like the narrow-waist Dhak of the Bhils, there is the Parang drum of the Murias. The Ghera is an octagonal rim stretched with goat hide played by one padded stick. The Dphala, the Chang, the Damahu, the Timki and the Tasa are different types of membranophonic instruments. The drumming is an invitation or a call for dancing.
Of the aerophonic instruments, the Bans is peculiar of Madhya Pradesh. It is a long bamboo stem about four feet in length, used mostly by the Rawats who were the cowherd community of Chhattisgarh. As an uncommon instrument of the flute category, the Bans is moreover akin to the Ayar Kuzhal of the south. The instrument produces peculiar sounds resembling the thundering of clouds or the hoofs of wild beasts. The other instruments of the areophonic group are the Pawli of the Bhils and the Algoza which is a pair of flutes. The professional musicians Dewars use a crude type of Sarangi to recite legendary tales. This instrument is made of a coconut shell resonator and horse-hair strings. The Dhungru is a plucked instrument having catgut strings. The Sindhi or Sing is a horn-shaped instrument used all over the state. The Been or the Pungi is the snake-charmers instrument. The Morchang (jews harp) and the Ghangli of the Bhils are favourite mini instruments of the rural boys. The Ghangli is made of bamboo chip with a vibrating tongue.
Chatkora (Chatkauaa), the Thiski, the Thapi and the Zhanj are the auto phonics instrument. The chordophonics instruments are the Tonkya of the Bhils and the Chikara or the Kingri. The scrapper is no more seen except in the Vindhyas and Dandakaranya. The Bhils call it Karkhara. In Bundelkhand it is named as Khirkhira. The oldest instruments of the tribes of Bastar are Dhankul which is the plucked instrument and Tirududi (or Jhunki) which is the dancing stick of the bison-horn Marias.