“At Mundra, it took long persuasion to take pictures in Devshi Sarang’s house. It was sold to a local Jain merchant who, initially, was reluctant to allow us to enter the house due to its dilapidated condition even before the earthquake of 2001. Depiction of paintings here, showcasing the arrival of new era, is most probably the last major work on walls by a Kutchee artist.”
During my journey in the world of these fabulous heritage of wall paintings, I was privy to many good experiences. The people of Gujarat and Rajasthan are known for their hospitality. The response I received from them has always encouraged me to pursue my goal.
The journey commenced from the Kutch district of Gujarat. During one of my visits to my native place Kutch, I observed wall paintings in Sinogra village and started documenting them. My quest for documentation of more wall paintings took me to many other villages in Kutch and various districts in Gujarat and later in Rajasthan.
In my search for documenting wall paintings, I came across many large-hearted people who entertained me and my companions. Dashrathsinh ji, the late jagirdar of village Kotdi Mahadevpuri (Kutch), welcomed us on reaching his haveli and sent his son along with us to identify the houses where the wall paintings were put up. He did not allow us to leave the village until we had lunch with him.
Tejsi Dharsi, a popular Kutchee poet and an ornithologist from Naliya village, took me to various villages nearby Naliya for the documentation of wall paintings and also entertained me with his impromptu Kutchee poems.
At Faradi village in Kutch, the owner of the house, a lady, first refused me permission for the photo shoot. However, after coming to know that I belonged to her community, and was a follower of the Vaishnava sect, she gave her assent, albeit leaving out my companions.
Kalubha Waghela, who stays in Mundra town in Kutch, contains some of the finest wall paintings. On my first visit to his place, initially I was denied permission to enter the house as he was not at home, but after some persuasion, his wife allowed me and my companions to view and document the paintings.
At Bharapar village in Kutch, paintings found in a school were covered with dust and DDT powder, which made the task of photographing them difficult. So the principal of the school asked the students to clean the area with broom and provided a ladder to clean the painted walls with water, enabling me to carry on with my documentation.
At Bhojay village, the caretaker of a house refused me permission to shoot the wall paintings, despite my knowing the owner of the house, who resides in Mumbai, and who had recommended me to visit his village. Even the local residents could not convince him to allow me to take pictures.
At many places in Kutch, before the photo shoot, we had to clean the surface of the wall to reveal the painting beneath. At Godhro village, my friend had to climb the beam to clean the wall. At Bibber village, the temple walls were covered with a white layer due to brackish air of the Rann which concealed the paintings. For the documentation of these paintings, my friend had to apply water to remove the layer, so that they could be revealed and photographed.
At Lala village in Kutch, walking around in small lanes and searching for wall paintings on the outer walls of buildings, we were followed by a group of children. As we were looking upwards, the children, not knowing our motive, thought of us as eccentric. One among them called me and my friend ‘charya madu’, meaning ‘mad people’. However, I entertained the group with local ice candy. On my request to fetch water for cleaning a wall where some paintings were depicted, they were delighted and ran back to their houses to fetch water. Each one of them brought water in a small vessel and the tallest among them cleaned the wall.
At Mundra, it took long persuasion to take pictures in Devshi Sarang’s house. It was sold to a local Jain merchant who, initially, was reluctant to allow us to enter the house due to its dilapidated condition even before the earthquake of 2001. Depiction of paintings here, showcasing the arrival of new era, is most probably the last major work on walls by a Kutchee artist.
In Rajasthan people were cordial and offered their assistance. In Shekhavti region of Rajasthan I was welcomed by the caretakers of the havelis who charged hefty fees for entering the premises to see and photograph wall paintings depicted there in.
At Churu town in Rajasthan, I met Babulal Surana, the owner of one of the biggest havelis in Shekhavati region, known as Hawa Mahal, having around eleven hundred doors and windows. Though, initially, he did not give permission for photography, after explaining the reason to him, he allowed me to photo shoot the paintings in his personal room. Paintings in this haveli are some of the best paintings found in Rajasthan, based on Hindu mythology. However, they have been damaged due to the recurrent applications of a layer of varnish, which the owner undertook every time he visited the haveli.
The palace of Kota in Rajasthan is famous for its exhibits of miniatures as well as wall paintings. However, the wall paintings depicted in an uppermost room are out of bounds for a common visitor. The predominant theme of these paintings is Shrinathji portrayed in various moods. Also painted in Gokhla (niche) are the dasaavtaras of Vishnu. Upon my request and after learning about my love for wall paintings, I was granted permission by the curator to see and photograph these paintings.
My experiences for the documentation of wall paintings in both these states were always pleasant. Except for one place in Kutch, I was never refused to photo shoot and was always entertained by the owners and caretakers alike. Even the people who observed me clicking photos of the exterior walls offered me information about other likely locations where I could find beautiful wall paintings.
At Nathdwara, late Chirnjivlal Sharma, who himself was an accomplished artist, took me around the town to show the depiction of wall paintings, especially at the Mahuvawala Akhada.
The priest of Gokulchndramaji temple at Udaipur graciously allowed me to shoot the paintings depicted on the walls of the passageway.
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