Silchar: In a quiet corner of a buzzing college campus, a group of artists sat hunched over earthen discs around a table and some on the ground, painting deceptively simple figures of gods and goddesses and scenes from mythological tales with intricate brush strokes.
While one was painting Goddess Durga, another was recreating a scene from a Hindu mythological tale about Lord Krishna overcoming multi-hooded serpent Kaliya in the Yamuna river, and another was busy giving final touches to his work depicting Lord Krishna and Radha.
With their paintings, these artists hoped to remind the people of Assam’s Barak Valley of an art that was once a part of their everyday lives but gradually drifted into oblivion – Saura paintings.
For many, including locals, who gathered to witness the artists’ work at the recently concluded sixth Northeast Green Summit, it was the first time they had heard about the art.
Payal Goswami, an art student at Assam University who was one of the artists, said she first learned about Saura paintings after she attended a workshop of a painter from a village here who practised the art. “The first Saura paintings I saw were those painted by him. I also studied about this art,” she said.
“Saura paintings are completely handmade. Initially, the artists never even used artificial colours and made them themselves,” Goswami said.
She said that Saura paintings have always depicted mythical themes.
“Earlier, people used to buy Sauras to worship them. They would hang them on walls and it was believed that they helped ward off evil. However, now most people don’t know about Saura paintings and no one is buying them,” she said.
Currently, there is only one artist in the Barak Valley who practises the Saura art, claimed Goswami.
Another artist, Shivani Nath, said the revival of Saura paintings could translate into increased earnings for potters. “Saura paintings are being made for a long time. They are painted on earthen discs. Earlier, they were worshipped by people but it is no longer the case,” she said.
“These discs are very hard to find because potters only make them when they receive an order from someone. If this art is revived, it will also benefit the potters,” Nath said.
She said it takes up to two hours to complete a painting.
The earthen discs for these artists were arranged by stationery products maker Kokuyo Camlin. They were made-on-order by a potter in Manipur, according to S Rajkumar, national sales promotion manager, Kokuyo Camlin.
Traditionally, Saura artists used natural colours extracted from tree leaves, plants and roots, Rajkumar said.
“Extracting these colours is a costly affair and they are not available easily. So, the artists have switched from traditional colours to synthetic colours,” he said.
The paintings made by these artists were presented as mementoes to guests, who came from different parts of the country, on the concluding day of the Northeast Green Summit.
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