Cheriyal Scroll Painting is a popular and modified version of Nakashi art, considered highly rich in the local motifs. This art form is unique to the state of Telangana and made mostly in Hyderabad currently.
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 the shorter stories related to the Puranas and Epics. Scroll paintings are known for their rich history and they also assume a significant role among Asia’s artistic traditions. The Cheriyal paintings represent a distinct local invention, based mainly on local traditions.
The Nakashis are the artists of Telangana and the scrolls constitute a key element of the social and cultural setting of Telangana. 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 traditional scrolls are mostly of vertical format and illustrate the stories through a series of horizontal panels. Here, there is a floral border in the middle separating the two panels, and the linear narrative is shown, being held with both hands or suspended from a tree. It is further rolled continually. Compared to the long scrolls in the past, now artists have adapted to paint smaller versions of these scrolls that only depict any single episode or few characters from the traditional stories. These can be framed easily and hung on walls of modern homes.
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. At present, the Cheriyal painting work is being continued by some selected families. There are only few artists remaining who still paint, making use of 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. In this form of art, the iconography of major deities like Vishnu, Shiva, etc. too carry a strong local idiom. 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, Markandey 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. The costumes and settings reflect the culture of Telangana.
Cheriyal Painting is widely popular due to the unique rural element which renders an aura of exclusivity and charm for the art items. It represents the pride of Telangana, especially the region’s tryst with such rare and unique art forms. Cheriyal scroll painting also received Intellectual Property Rights Protection, commonly called the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in the year 2007. It is a matter of academic interest for painters all over India and the world, who study the art work with attention to detail and efforts are on to preserve this rich tradition for posterity by actively promoting the tradition of Cheriyal Painting.