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Updated: Aug 28, 2023


The never fading patrimony of India's cultural heritage is known and celebrated all over the globe. Cheriyal, a small town in Telangana, has its roots here showcasing this painting style.

Cheriyal artworks are usually the pictorial representation of scenes from Indian mythological epics including Ramayana, Mahabharata, Garuda Purana, Krishna Leela, Markandeya Purana and other mythological scriptures. Cheriyal paintings are very similar to other types of paintings, such as Pattachitra, Phad's portrait. They can be made in the form of a story on a long vertical piece of fabric, as they also serve as a visual resource for storytelling.


Cheriyal paintings were arguably brought to India by the Mughals in the 16th century. However many claim its roots go back to the 5th century in India itself. We can find a lot of influence of Kalamkari and Deccani scroll paintings in Cheriyal paintings. The resemblance of

Kakatiya paintings from 12th century can be witnessed in the Cheriyals especially in the Pillalamarri temple of Mahbubnagar district in Telangana and the hill temple of Tripurantaka. Temple art traditions have a high influence on Cheriyal Paintings.


Traditional folk singers could tell the stories by using cheriyal as a tool for visual presentation. Cheriyals pass on the rich cultural history and heritage with them. These small but rich memories were also used to train the uneducated. They functioned as a brilliant method of verbal exchange and conveyed massive moral stories. Numerous tablets are separated with the help of architectural bodies and their caste line , which is a very important factor of honorable representation.


Cheriyals have mythical tales. There may also be a ritual achieved when a scroll lasts more than a hundred years. They have plunged miles into the sacred river. The scale of the paintings varies from 1 foot to 60 feet depending on the number of characters depicted in the painting's story. In the past, the scrolls were the background to the oral traditions of ordinary people. Each network had its quirks and favorite heroes and heroines, as well as a variety of stories from local myths and the body should only tell for other specific castes.

For example..., the Bhavnarushis and Markandeya Puranas were made by the Kunapuli sub-caste for the Padmashalis. It becomes a kind of interactive component. Now it has become not just a treat, but also the rituals, often performed for more than three nights in a row, but stretching out to 20 days. The presence of such narrator-actors dates back to 10th-century Telugu literature.


It contains all the unique souvenirs of the community. Except that the mythical tales also talk about the daily life of simple communities such as fishermen, food gatherers, cobblers, etc. We can also see cheriyals as the stylized version of Nakkashi art rich in neighborhood motifs common to the Telangana neighborhood.

Aside from paintings..., Cheriyal artists also made masks, dolls and puppets which were also an integral part of storytelling traditions. As for their elaboration, the masks were made from coconut shells (smaller masks). A light wood called tellapuniki was used along with sawdust and tamarind seed paste in making the dolls and larger masks.


The procedure of making the Cheriyal paintings was all organic in ancient times. Be it brush, canvas/cloth or the paints, all were made from the natural sources.


  • Khadi cotton cloth was first coated with a thick paste made from cooked rice starch, white clay, chewing gum, and cooked tamarind seed paste. This process would take a few days.

  • Once the canvas was ready, figures and other elements such as architectural elements, landscapes, animals, forests, birds, rituals were drawn on the canvas.

  • The sharp contours were then drawn directly with the brush to define the drawings.

  • Finally, the colors were filled into the figures.Now the colors used in the figures had a certain meaning and symbolism. The background was painted red to emphasize the figures in the paintings. The face and skin were painted blue and yellow, denoting gods and goddesses respectively. Shades of brown and darker were used to represent demons and pink skin tones for humans.

  • All of these colors were preserved naturally.The natural colored stones were finely crushed and water was added and mixed well to form a thick paste. White was obtained from white shells, black forms lamp, yellow from turmeric, blue from indigo, and other colors from various plant dyes and ground stones. Later, gum tree water was added to them to preserve them and turn them into a sticky paint.

  • After the painting was completed, leaves and flowers were added to the edges.


With the changing times, the art form has also undergone various changes. Today the long mythological tales have been abridged as there are no traditional sponsors for the long scrolls and the whole picture has been reduced to one event. Instead of depicting the entire story, only individual events or episodes or characters from traditional stories are now depicted in the paintings. Considering the size of the cut down houses, the size of the paintings was also reduced. Now The walls of houses do not have enough room to hold scrolls 60 feet long, so cheriyal paintings are now often up to 2 to 3 feet long as well.In addition, the colors are no longer prepared in the traditional way. Synthetic watercolors, which are also easy on the wallet, have replaced natural dyes. However, this ancient art form has managed to survive and delight people all over the world.

Pic Courtesy Internet.

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