To understand a painting or to get into the mind of an artist, one has to often understand his roots.The place where his or her heart belongs. This was my first trip to Mandla district to Patangarh and Dindori, the motherland to the Pardhan Gond artists.In the past Pardhan Gonds were story tellers to Gond kings.They were responsible for passing on the traditions of the Gond kings verbally through songs with a musical instrument called the ‘Bana’ The kings in turn supported the Pardhans with cattle, grain, clothes etc.Their sustenance solely depended on the Kings.With the downfall of the kings due the advent of the British the Pardhans took to farming.But the music still remained in their mind and souls.
The Gonds worship Bada Dev, he is their main deity.According to the Pardhan Gonds, Bada Dev resides in a Shaja Tree.There is a popular folklore about Bada Dev disappearing into the Shaja tree and how the musical instrument ‘Bana” was used to appease him.
Story of Bana
One day the seven Gond brothers were tilling their field.They saw a handsome man on a white horse galloping on his horse through the filed and destroying it.They chased the rider but were futile as he disappeared in the Shaja Tree.They realized that he was Bada Dev,, their God.Thinking that he was angry with them, they tried to appease him with offering of lentils, sacrifice of rooster and Mahua wine.
They pleaded him to come out and forgive them, but in vain.Finally, one of the brothers made a one stringed musical instrument with a branch of a Khirsani tree .He played the instrument and sang praises of glory of Bada Dev, on hearing this, Bada Dev made an appearance. He blessed the Gond who had made the instrument, and told him that whenever anyone sang his song accompanied by this musical instrument, he would make an appearance. He told them to call this instrument a “Bana”
Ritual of Bada dev under a Shaja Tree
Typical mud houses of Patangarh
These comprise of a central courtyard and rooms neatly arranged around it.There is a room opening to the outside for cattle.
Traditional wall relief work called ‘Bhittichitra”
Traditional wall paintings are called ‘Digna’.These are painted during festivals and ceremonies.The usage of blue colour is a recent .Coloured clay was used traditionally, yellow (Ramraj Mitti, obtained from the Narmada River) ,White (Chuhi Mitti), Brick Red(Geroo), Black (charcoal).
The shrine of Bada Dev in Patangarh
The Holy Stone relics
Views from Patangarh, which is situated on a small hillock