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Folk artist converts cowshed into museum to help revive Chitrakathi art form in Maharashtra’s Konkan region

Folk artist Parshuram Gangavane won the Padma Shri award in 2021 for reviving the 500-year-old Chitrakathi art form.

In a novel initiative, a folk artist has converted his cowshed into a museum in a bid to preserve the dying folk art form of Chitrakathi being practised by the Thakar Adivasi community in Maharashtra’s Konkan region. The museum, set up in Kudal village of Sindhudurg by folk artist Parshuram Gangavane, who won the Padma Shri award in 2021 for reviving the 500-year-old Chitrakathi art form, has been attracting several researchers, students and tourists, the artist claimed.

Chitrakathi is a combination of art and storytelling. The Thakar tribal artists not only create paintings, but also narrate stories through paintings by composing songs around it and using music in the background. “I did not have sufficient money to spend on this project, but I had the determination to preserve this art form. That is when I decided to convert my cowshed, next to my house, into a museum,” Gangavane, aged around 70, told PTI on Sunday.

The museum was inaugurated in 2006 by renowned Marathi theatre personality late Prabhakar Panshikar. Gangavane claims that since then, hundreds of researchers, students and curious tourists have visited the museum. “I have paintings in this museum which are around 300 years old. They are a part of the Chitrakathi art form,” he said. The folk artist claims there are around 1,500 paintings, which are rare, in his collection.

Talking about the history of this art form, Gangavane said Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had given shelter to the Thakar tribals and patronised this art form. But with the passage of time, the art form stopped getting support, he said. Gangavane, who has been practising Chitakathi since the age of 12, made efforts to revive it by introducing it as a medium of social awareness.

He recalls how he used to travel to villages with his puppets raising awareness among people against open defecation. “Puppet shows used to be a huge crowd puller before television came into existence. Social messages were given through these shows,” he said. Gangavane said efforts need to be made to pass on this folk art to the future generation.

At his home, his sons Chetan and Eknath are taking forward their father’s vision. “I feel proud about the work of my father. Students from colleges of architecture, fashion technology and animation come here to study this art form,” Chetan said. He said the setting up of the museum has helped to keep alive this tradition. Konkan-based journalist Vivek Tamhankar said the state government should promote this art form as “if we lose it, it would be lost forever.”

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