Rajasthan has a lot of art with a rich heritage spanning millennia. Starting with Indus Valley Civilization, Rajasthan has exerted its influence over the art and handicrafts of the region. One such ancient form of art found in the tribes of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh with the connection extending back in time even to the pre-historic regime. One can see the similarity between Mandana paintings and the later works in the famed Bhimbhetka complex.
Mandana paintings decorate the wall and floor of adobe houses in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The intent of drawing them is to protect home and hearth, extend a welcome to the gods to bless the inhabitants and also as insignia of celebrations during festivals. Although in Madhya Pradesh it is mostly done on the walls during the Durga Puja, Rajasthan has a practice of drawing it on the floor and walls. Although most of the themes tend to be animistic and usually portray asymmetry in design, the Meena women of Hadoti area in Rajasthan are blessed with the skill for creating designs of perfect symmetry. Although seen all over Rajasthan in the tribal villages, villages in the Hadoti region take it to the level of fine art. At Manvar Resort and Desert Camp near Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, we promote the local arts and traditions. Mandana paintings adorn our floors and walls. It is a yearly ritual and a joy to watch the women engrossed in their art.
The hardened ground is swept and made uniform. A mixture of cow dung and Rati, a local variant of clay is spread thinly and uniformly along with red ochre to provide a contrasting media. Lime or chalk powder is used to make the drawings and motifs. A piece of cotton or a tuft of hair makes for a rudimentary brush. Yet the magic they create is anything but simple.
Usually, the drawings are inspired by the Indian or Hindu Mythology along with some animistic features relevant to the tribes. Some of the popular designs are of Ganesha, peacocks, tigers, floral motifs, women at work among other things. A curiosity to note is that Mandana and the Tibetan Buddhist Mandala have some similarities and possibly influenced by each other. All over the Indian subcontinent this practice of drawing and decorating the front of the homes with ephemeral motifs exist by various names - Kollam, Rangoli among others.
Well, Mandana used to be a common sight, with mothers passing their secret designs to their daughters. Mandana is an invaluable legacy, a family heirloom with generations of history and the power to liven up space even in the midst of a dry desert village around Manvar Resort and Desert Camp near Jaisalmer.
But all is not well. As with many ancient practices and traditions, caught in the crossfires of development and modernization, Mandana is also under threat. With disappearing adobe houses or mud huts of Dhanis, the very canvas on which Mandana came alive is slowly going extinct. The proliferation of chemical paints has not helped the cause either. So there is an urgent need to safeguard this tribal treasure. We at Manvar Resort and Desert Camp in Jaisalmer do our bit by employing local women to draw Mandana on our walls and floors which are incidentally inspired, designed and built on a traditional Rajasthani village, the Dhani.
Our patrons appreciate the entire concept of showcasing the true desert culture and architecture. Mandana paintings add the final lustre to this shining example of Responsible and Sustainable Travel adopted and promulgated by Manvar Desert Camp and Resort near Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.
(credits for cover picture: Gaon Connection)