BHAGALPUR: The Manjusha art of Bhagalpur and its adjoining areas is struggling for endurance as there is no support from either the government or social organisations, unlike Madhubani paintings of Mithila, Zadopetiya of the Santhal Parganas and other folk arts of Bihar. The artists associated with the art are now compelled to switch over to other trades to make both ends meet.
Incidentally, this art, which is also popular as “Angika art”, is attached with mythological background of the ancient Bishari Puja of “Anga Desh”, the name by which this zone was known centuries ago.
Manjushas are temple-shaped boxes made of bamboo, jute straw and paper. Local folks believe that by worshipping the Bisharis (the Goddesses of snakes), they shall not fear snakebite.
Speaking about the Manjusha art, octogenarian Chakravarti Devi, the living legend of the 20 odd proponents of this art form, said, “Only three colours – red, green and yellow – are used in Manjusha making. The Manjusha artists depict human beings in the form of the letter ‘X’ and portray Bisharis with wavy lines signifying snakes. But, we are now able to prepare only 500 Manjushas while in the past we used to prepare more than 2,000 manjushas. It is probably due to decline in the number of Bishari devotees”.
Speaking about the difference of this art form from other folk arts, Chakravarti Devi said, the faces of the characters in Manjusha are always sideways looking, the eyes and nose are conic – unlike Madhubani painting.
“It is the only art of eastern India, which resemblances with ‘Bani-Thani’ art of Rajsthan. The eyes of the characters always speak in this ancient art”, she said, adding, “Now the demands of Manjusha art has increased in the market but only for the pictures made on paper.”
She also laments the present status of the art, saying, “The government can neither understand nor save the traditional form of arts. This is the only art begun and established by the untouchables in the Indian society”. However, she admitted that it became the focal issue during the Ang Mahotsava last year.