We spotted them while roving the streets of Ujjain, on the walls of Ahilya School in Maheshwar, and on kuccha huts while travelling through the villages of Malwa. The art of Mandana thrives in Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring Rajasthan. The wall and floor paintings are drawn for various reasons—as protection for the home, to welcome gods into the dwelling, and as part of celebrations, festivals, and auspicious occasions like births and marriage. Using just a handful of ingredients like mud, dung, and lime, women skillfully transform simple living spaces into beautiful canvases.
Mandana is derived from the word mandan, which means ornamentation or decoration. It refers to the act of drawing—chitra mandana, as well as the drawing itself. Mandanas are mostly drawn by women using kharia (chalk solution) and geru (red ochre). The surface is first prepared with cow dung mixed with rati (local clay) and red ochre, while chuna or chalk powder is used to draw the design using a piece of cotton, a tuft of hair, or a simple brush made from a date palm frond. Designs vary from basic line drawings to complex iconic representation of gods and goddesses; they depict floral motifs, peacocks, cats, tigers, lions, the swastika, Ganesha, women at work, or symmetric geometric patterns. While travelling through Madhya Pradesh, keep an eye out for Mandana art adorning walls and floors wherever you go.
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