Khovar & Sohrai Wall Paintings

Kochi, Kerala

The Art of the Hill Villages of Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.

In Karanpur Valley of the Vindhyan Hill Chain where the Damodar River flows, is the Sati Range, wherein lie the villages of Ganju and Kurmi. The tribals live there in peace and seclusion and the villagers paint vivid images birds, animals and plant life on the walls of their houses. The Traditional mural painting tradition is done throughout Hazaribagh district. However, the Khovar art is done exclusively in Jorakath, and Kharati village in Barkagaon block in south-west Hazaribagh, While Sohrai art is done in Bhelwara village in Bishungarh block in east Hazaribagh. Stylistically, the women artists in the hills paint animals and birds, While those in the valley paint plants, aquatic life, and birds, etc..Painted Houses of Hazaribagh


The seamless collaboration of the two art froms of Khovar and Sohrai painted as panels on the walls of World Spa, Gurgaon. The mural is 20ft x 4ft and in the wall painting tradition of Khovar and Sohrai, it also has the movement of animals from panel to panel as if appearing from a negative to positive photograph.

Painted Houses of Hazaribagh- Art by Women

The village mural painting tradition is a matriarchal one, and for this reason it is a sacred tradition in an essentially original matriarchal indigenous order. The art is made by married women (Devi) during the marriage and harvest seasons. Young girls learn the art from their mothers and aunts. The marriage art is called Khovar after the Bridal room and bridegroom, and relates to an ancestral cave dwelling origin (Kho) related to the painted caves of the Mirzapur, Vindhyan, Jharkhand complex called Kohabara. It is full of plant forms and fertility symbols which are perhaps older than the Calcolithic mandalas reflecting a comparatively recent order in the rockart. It is more deeply connected with a Palaeolithic tradition, i.e. Sariya, which is matriarchal and shamanstic as believed. (

Art continuity
through adoption
in urban aesthetics

Art continuity through adoption in urban aesthetics


’Justin Imam of Virasat Trust, who works with many such artists from Jharkhand, says, “My wife Alka supervised the work, and the event was initiated by Leenika Jacob from Kala Chaupal that promotes arts. Here, we have tried to depict the wilderness of Hazaribagh through birds, animals and other creatures in the painting. For the residents of the World Spa, it is a window into the world of these artists and natural colours.” Jacob, Managing Trustee of The Kala Chaupla Trust, aims to help many others like Putli and Malo. The intention behind this mural was to garner respect India’s cultural heritage. “We should take pride in our own history and the continuity of its existence,” she says. The trust is working with over 360 women from 13 villages and 10 tribal communities.’

A lecture by Justin Imam on the indigenous art of Hazaribagh folllowed by a workshop led by Alka Imam, Putli Devi and Maloo Devi on the diferent art forms of Khovar and Sohrai.

Knowledge building

Justin Imam of Virasat Trust gave the World Spa resident community a lecture on the sustainable art forms of Khovar and Sohrai and it’s historical significance that traces it’s roots back to a Mesolithic Period. The Hazaribagh region in Jharkhand is a heavily forested plateau with deep river valleys, and exotic forest tribes. This area has been found to have magnificent Mesolithic rock art (10,000 B.C) , that may be directly traced as the distant ancestor of a unique style of wall paintings in the villages of Hazaribagh.

This resulted an engaged discussion that built knowledge and value of the art practice and community adoption.

Demonstrative Workshops


The community was engaged by the tribal artists- Malo Devi and Putli Devi to understand the non grid form of painting and also to understand the colour extraction techniques the artists undergo.

It is usually drawn with the help of sticks, cloth swabs, fingertips, and broken combs and depicts Pashupati (the creator of animals), flowers, elephants, peacocks, sparrows, squirrels, cows, etc.

The colors used in the paintings are extracted from flowers, leaves, plants, rice, etc, and mixed with Kali Matti (Maganese black), Duddhi Matti/ Charak Matti (white mud), Lal Matti/Geru (red oxide) and Pila Matti (yellow ochre).

Wall Mural in the making


Artwork in progress with artists, Alka Imam, Maloo Devi and Putli Devi. Khovar (marriage art) is a reverse split painting. While black manganese is used for black, kaolin makes for the white colour. Sohrai (harvest art), on the other hand, is done with brush. The geru obtained from iron oxide and yellow colour from ochre earth are used for highlighting elements.

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