Saura-Tribal Paintings



The Sauras, residing in Orissa, are one of the oldest tribes of India. They are mentioned as ‘Savaras’ in Ramayana and Mahabharata. The devotion of Savari to Rama in Ramayana has become an epic folklore. In the Mahabharata, mention has been made of Jara Savara whose arrow was the reason behind Krishna’s death. His body flowed into the sea near Puri in the form of a wooden log from which the Triad of Jagannath – the presiding deity of Orissa - is said to have been built. The present fame of this tribe, however, rests not in folklore, but in their traditional paintings that originated out of religious and ceremonial rituals. This form of art is mostly found in Rayagada, Gajapati and Koraput districts of Orissa.

Idital, the Saura deity, contains various symbols and meanings, and the Saura paintings primarily revolve around them. Their paintings are called ‘ikon’ and comprise of a set of sketches elaborately drawn on their wallsThey are called italons or ikons because of their religious association. It is difficult to define the perfect symbolic meaning of ikons, which consist of human being, horse, elephant, sun, moon, etc. They are generally painted to appease the Gods and ancestors. These paintings are noted for their elegance, charm, iconography, aesthetic and ritualistic association. These are, in fact, the treasure house of their traditional wisdom, knowledge, and folklore. Precisely, these paintings are their literature as well as philosophy.

The meaning becomes apparent only when the priests or the picture men, as they are locally called, interpret them. The minute details of the paintings also reflect the day-to-day lives of the Sauras. Cults and myths have great bearing on the artistic creations of the Sauras.

Their whole theological system is dramatized in their painting traditions. The richness, variety, antiquity and the ritual base of these ancient tribal art are responsible for their popularity, fame and in-vogue-appeal

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