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 Pancatattva in Artistic Manifestation


A Case Study of Tribal Gujarat 


Haku Singh

In a primary school of tribal children they made their own song and were singing :

dilli jatra jahva bhoja

dilli jatra jahva na

paklo ambo khahva bhoja

paklo ambo khahva na

Come bhoja (brother’s wife) we will go to Delhi for a pilgrimage and there we will eat ripe mango fruit.

Each creative act of a tribe comes from direct contact with prakrti, the elements: the earth, the wind, the fire, the space and the water. They are too near him. The creative act is a ritual too, far from him — known and unknown; so he wants to fathom them through the arts that grow out of his own self.

He has a past, also the future. Present is very much lived by him through this creative act. He is very much a man amongst men, but then he is a man himself — anonymous.

In his art he respects all known and unknown forces.

He respects nature — Prakrti, and uses it discriminately to its minimum and maximum.

He knows how to use it; so there is a purity about it and the truth behind it. While pursuing it, he then transfers his creativity through different material into form, performance and transformation.

This paper deals with three aspects of the artistic manifestations:

Perception of Creativity

The theme of the tribal creative expression mostly deals with ‘Life’ — known and unknown forces. It is always guided by tradition, but that does not negate the individual expression.

‘Form’ evolves automatically through intuition. There is no dry logical exercise involved.

A small element in nature, which is lived through life like a ‘grain’, is celebrated as a dot, or a grass blade, as a line in innumerable ways with interesting forms.

The tools made by the tribes guide the technique as well as the final expression.

Out of their own perception certain modules are created which passes through a process to get to the final results. This then certainly manifests in their own vocabulary of the creative act. Thus modules give discipline, but they do take risks also to overrule it for getting better results. The vitality in the creative act comes through their intense participation in life.

Styles differ enormously from tribe to tribe because of their socio-economic and environmental differences; and this guides the perception too.

The language of the artistic manifestation evolves through the visual and audio perception and objects and from the moment which is the basis to all creativity.

Celebration of Nature-Environment

In their celebration of nature they deal with a wide range of the known and unknown forces. It can start just with a particle of Mother Earth, a drop of water, or a spark of fire, or a breez of wind, and include anything and everything which they see, they dream, and they or their forefathers thought or felt.

Almost all their creative manifestations evolve out of their own environment. This becomes their material wealth, the ‘tool’ bank.

They in their creative expression use this to its maximum and minimum.

In celebrating this a tribal man has behind him the tradition and his finest sensibility.

Even the smallest sprout in nature becomes his greatest joy as he puts it into his creative act.

In celebrating nature there is nothing like a waste. In fact, the ‘waste’ becomes a marvellous material wealth for the tribes.


Plate 16.1 Panchmahal, Gujarat. Bhil making of a jar

Plate 16.2 Lambadia, Gujarat. Kiln for preparing terracotta hourses

Plate 16.3 Dahnu, Maharashtra, making of a Varli painting Plate 16.4 Dahnu, Maharashtra. Varli marriage painting

The material then automatically leads to the technique and a piece is formed which is then celebrated with all the interdisciplinary arts. This piece does have the reality which is real like a votive terracotta figure, or a painting of a god.

The tribal mind takes a material, finds one and many usages and also the resources by moulding it with his own creative genius. There is no set values attached to nature. Like night and day, both have their own intrinsic values. So, nights are celebrated through their various creative manifestations by calling all the forces of the universe.

Response to Nature-Life lived

  1. In any art piece it is the wholeness — totality that counts, as the different art forms mingle to create one in its totality.

  2. Creative act is a ritual which in itself is a search of one’s own being.

  3. Their vocabulary of art is direct, intuitive and simple. Form performance and transformation are the integral parts of their art.

  4. For them the basic elements of nature are too near them, i.e., known to them, but so unknown, far from them as well.

  5. The tribal expression of art means to fathom the known and the unknown and to link oneself with those elements of nature.

Their respect for Prakrti is like a part of their own selves; so the skill, the creativity, the love and, that way, also the truth is being felt in the manifestations of their art forms.

Thus art form becomes a living entity, a part of the tribal self, family, village and, that way, the universe — cosmos.


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