Even to this day, many a village stage in Telangana and its surrounding areas hosts artists performing a chapter out of some mythological text, while children look on with awe.
These storytelling sessions, interspersed with music and dance routines, always make use of elaborate masks to depict particular characters, along with large, long scrolls that narrate the tale through paintings.
Yellow, blue and red – these ‘Cheriyal‘ masks and scrolls, with their distinctive characters and expressions, are a unique cultural icon by themselves – unlike any other in India.
Bengaluru, you have the opportunity to have these pieces of ancient history right inside your home. Learn to make the Cheriyal masks and adorn your nest with decor that tells a story! Click here to book your slot in the mask-making workshop now.
Their invention was the product of a special relationship between art and artists.
For over 800 years now, nomadic members of the Kaki Padagollu community in Telangana wander from village-to-village, performing an elaborate show with narration, ballads and dances.
To aid the imagination, these groups wear colourful masks and carry massive scrolls painted with scenes from the folktales they narrated. Some of these scrolls are upto 45 feet in length!
And those gorgeous creations, so vivid they almost seem alive, all used to come from the village of Cheriyal – some 90 km from the capital of Hyderabad.
Nowadays, these designs and crafts, once the pride of the region, have diminished in stature and glory as more modern forms of entertainment maintain a stranglehold on centre stage.
But still, all is not lost. Indeed, to this day, we can find the art being kept alive, across the generations.
Sai Kiran Dhanalakota, a fourth-generation Cheriyal artist, is on a mission to revive this 12th-century art and teach you how to do it as well.
“In 1970, my great grandfather was the only surviving Cheriyal artist. He was working on a 20-feet long scroll depicting the Mahabharata when a stroke paralysed him. My grandfather was 35 years old then and decided to leave his tailoring business to complete his father’s scroll – and then continued with his own designs. That is how it became a family legacy, and I am the latest to take it up,” Sai Kiran shares with The Better India.
Sai Kiran belongs to one of only four families in Hyderabad have inherited this artistic talent. And he is keen to share his skills with all who wish to learn to ensure this beautiful art survives.
You can learn the ancient art directly from Sai Kiran in Bengaluru. Book your place in his workshop by clicking on this link.
What to expect in the Bengaluru art workshop:
Sai Kiran, who has been making the Cheriyal masks since he was a child, will guide you on how to hand-sculpt the masks that his family traditionally made for nomadic storytellers.
“All the materials we use are eco-friendly. I will have tamarind seed powder mixed with pure milk and water ready- it takes time to settle the mixture. There will be no moulds, and we will make one mask by hand. While this mask dries up, you can paint another one that I will have brought for you. At the end of the workshop, you are free to take both the masks home,” the artist shares.
Heart for Art (HoA), an organisation working towards the revival of traditional arts across 16 states, has organised this workshop in Bengaluru. Based in Pune, this organisation has organised over 200 workshops in Bengaluru, Goa, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune.
Padmaja Jalihal, the founder of HoA, says that it is an excellent opportunity for interior designers, design students and those who want to take a break from their work routine to do something unique and creative.
Padmaja, who worked in finance for several years, gave up a lucrative career to revive dying art forms in the country.
“We formed HoA as a curating place for India’s dying arts. Over the past five years, we have had an encouraging response from individuals as well as corporates. Through this workshop, we hope to give the Telangana art a place in your home and heart,” the 50-year-old entrepreneur shares.
It is undoubtedly a productive use of your weekend, where you make not only home decor, but also revive a piece of our history.
In under three hours, you get to take home something that has fascinated one and all, right from the 12th century. How cool is that?
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)