PATNA: The famous Manjusha art of Bhagalpur and its neighbouring ar-eas is on the verge of extinction due to lack of support from the Bihar government. Manjusha art is essentially local in its form and content mixed with a very popular folk tale of Bhagalpur namely `Bihula-Vishahari Gatha’.
Now this art form is mainly confined to few museums and books.
Two Bhagalpur scholars — professor, ancient Indian history and culture, TMBU University, Bhagalpur, Rajiva K Sinha and Bhagalpur Museum curator Om Prakash Pandey — have taken pain to document this dying art by pub-lishing a collection of its paintings, folklore and its origin.
“This book would be useful for art lovers and future historians to un-derstand the rich heritage of the ancient Anga (modern Bhagalpur). It will help them in understanding the importance of the idea of `history at your doorsteps,” said emeritus professor of history, languages and culture of Asia, University of Wisconsin (US), A K Narain. “We have managed to preserve some of these paintings and folklores associated with it at Bhagalpur Museum. Due to the lack of any institu-tional support, several artists associated with the art switched over to other professions,” Sinha said.
Sanjeev Srivastava of Angika Development Society has extended sup-port in documenting the traditional art of Bhagalpur.
The present colour-fully painted and decorated Manjusha took its shape by the middle of the 20th century. During the last 30-40 years, it took the shape of a cottage industry. It was at this juncture that artist Chakravarti Devi began painting this art borrowing characters from the Manjusha, said Sinha and Pandey.
Another person, who worked on this art was Jyotish Chandra Sharma, a local art teacher. A few months back, Chakravarti Devi died and the tradi-tion of this art has passed on to her granddaughter.
“Our recent book `Manjusha Art: Reflections in Folklore, Trade and Regional History” is an attempt to bring before the world Manjusha art, a local, but very popular art of Bhagalpur,” Sinha told TOI. The art had its origin in the decoration of baskets of offering (Manjusha) to goddess Vishahari.
“We don’t know when the myth of Bihula and Vishahari came to be systemised and translated into the form of `Gatha’ and songs. One thing, however, is certain that it was embedded in the masses, particularly lower class people in the form of the great Sati tradition. The oral `Gatha’ was put into writing in Kaithi script in the middle of 18th century,” Sinha told TOI.
In the post-independence period, the `Gatha’ came to be written in popular Devanagari script.
The `Gatha’ took its present form during the end of the 18th century and we may say that the practice of making and decorating the Manjusha began during this period.