Sohrai Wall Art of the Santals
Glimpses from our project in Purulia, October 2016-September 2017
Supported by Anthropological Survey of India  

The traditional wall art of the Santals is primarily associated with Sohrai, their harvest festival. Sohrai is celebrated as a thanksgiving for the cattle that have helped cultivate their land. The festival is celebrated in either end October  or January, coinciding with the harvesting season. The wall art is traditionally the domain of Santal women.

Assisted by the Anthropological Survey of India, Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India under the Scheme of Assistance to State Governments, Institutions and Organizations for Documentation and Dissemination of Research Results in the field of Anthropology, we undertook a project entitled “Exploring Sohrai Wall Art Traditions In Purulia with a focus on Santal practices : A Visual Documentation” in October 2016.

The scope of our project was to document Sohrai wall art of the Santals in Purulia and the field area we chose was the entire Raghunathpur subdivision in North Purulia, comprising Raghunathpur I and II, Neturia, Santuri, Kashipur and Para blocks. We also included some villages in Hura block, south of the subdivision, to our field area, primarily because of the village of Hutmara, which, we found, had begun to influence painting styles in the northern blocks.

Thus, between the months of October 2016 and January 2017, we covered more than 2000 kms crisscrossing the six blocks of Raghunathpur subdivision and northern parts of Hura bordering Para and Kashipur blocks.  We visited more than 60 villages. Here are some glimpses of our documentation: walls covered in traditional bas relief and monochromatic compositions as well as the more recent trend of coloured motifs, mainly inspired by villages in Hura block. 

Our team included Saheb Ram Tudu (subject expert & camera), Dhritiman Das (camera/edit), Moinak Bose (camera/sound), Ronit Biswas (camera) & Bimal Baskey (our trusted local guide). 

Last day of the festival at Bhurkundabari - a tired but exhilarated team : (l-r) Laxmikanta Hembram, Ronit Biswas, Moinak Bose, Saheb Ram Tudu, Ratnaboli Bose and Bimal Baskey, with Ramchand Mandi. 

View excerpts from our video documentation