A Unique Narrative Art of Telangana

The Nakashis are the artists of Telangana and the scrolls are an important element of the social and cultural setting of Telangana. Cheriyal Scroll Painting is a popular and modified version of Nakashi art, considered highly rich in the local motifs. These scrolls are painted in narrative format similar to a film roll or even comic strips, and depict stories from the Indian mythology as well as short stories related to the Puranas and Epics.

The Cheriyal paintings represent a unique local creation, based mainly on local traditions. These paintings were mostly confined to Cheriyal village, and hence called Cheriyal scrolls. The scrolls earlier depicted the adventures and the exploits of local folk heroes wherein each community had its popular heroes. This traditional art form is considered an inseparable part of the profession comprising the story-telling and balladeer community called Kaki Padagollu. They have displayed these scrolls which are also accompanied by music and dance. The scrolls would be flowing like a film roll, which is usually nearly three feet in width and about 40 to 45 feet in length, based on the story.

The canvas making is an elaborate procedure. It is made of Khadi cotton, starch, white mud and a paste of tamarind seeds and gum water. After the canvas is complete, the artists prepare the outline directly using a brush on the canvas. These outlines are defined clearly and appear sharp which shows the quality as well as the skill of the Cheriyal craftsman. Currently, the Cheriyal painting work is being continued by only few selected families. There are only some artists remaining who still paint, using this unique technique. One of the recent innovations is the painting of single pictures instead of a continuous scroll for the purpose of wall decorations.

Cheriyal Painting is easily recognized by certain unique characteristics. These are painted in vivid hues with mostly primary colors, showing a predominance of red color in the background. These paintings are characterized by unbridled imaginations of the local artisans. The subjects of the scroll paintings are mostly drawn from mythological, ancient literary and folk traditions. The major themes are Krishna Leela, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Shiva Puranam, Markandeya Puranam along with the ballads and folk stories of Gauda, Madiga and other communities. The main narrative involves scenes from the common rural life such as women performing kitchen chores, men working in fields or experiencing merry, festival settings, etc. Cheriyal scroll painting also received Intellectual Property Rights Protection, commonly called the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in the year 2007.