Saura Painting art style is practiced by Saura Tribe living in Orissa state of India; they are known as one of the world’s most ancient tribes and they have been painting these pictures to adorn the walls of their houses. Saura paintings are called “Ittal”, these paintings are deeply rooted in their tribal religious beliefs; so they are usually made in honour of the valiant and dead, to avert disease, to promote fertility of crops, to ensure good harvest, to celebrate the festivals and rituals, etc. The “Ittals” can be made by anyone who knows how to paint these traditional pieces of art, however, as one becomes master of this art form, and then this person achieves some sort of dedicated position and come to be known as “Ittalmaran” or “picture-man”.
The tribal-priests or shaman too are known to be good at painting these Saura traditional art style and they draw these Ittals along with their regular spiritual and religious duties. If one of the household in tribe is having trouble in their lives, then the priest tries to identify the root cause of problems and to please their tribal gods, goddesses, demigods and holy spirits, they suggest making of particular type of “Ittals” on the walls of their houses by themselves. It is believed that these paintings started as invocation of the gods, goddess and holy spirits.
When families decide to get a picture made on the walls of their houses, they either make these paintings themselves or they ask “Ittalmaran” to draw the paintings as per their interpretation of their vision or dreams about the design of the picture. It is common believe among people of Saura tribe that most of their paintings are vivid reinterpretation of the pictures seen in their dreams. Besides, during the festivals, the Saura families also repaint the old drawings done on walls of the houses as they pray for happiness and prosperity.
The “Ittals” are generally painted on freshly cleaned walls with red clay colour forming the base and they use twigs as brush to paint with colour made up of rice flour, ashes and red ochre; they usually draw on white picture on a red backdrop. These artists begin by drawing the outlines of the picture then they proceed to fill the blank spaces with the figures. Most of these paintings depict the regular agriculture cycles of ploughing, sowing and harvesting; besides, they often depict beautiful relationship that humans share with their natural surroundings.
But in recent years, many of these Saura artists have started experimenting with their traditional art style and have started painting on clothes. However, central theme of most Saura Ittal painting is a house, which is represented by a square, a circle or a rectangle. We could say that for artists belonging to Tribal Community, their customary painting styles are much more than the modern day art; in other words, for these artists, their traditional art has deep religious and spiritual significance that has been passed down to them by their forefathers; and present generation Saura painters have really done well to keep their traditions alive.