Pasula Manga is part of one of the few surviving families dependent on the famous scroll paintings of Cheriyal, a remote Telangana village, for a livelihood.

Mallesham and Manga creating a cheriyal painting togetherBy Arrangement
Features Art Tuesday, December 13, 2022 - 18:24

When Pasula Manga entered Cheriyal in 2004, she was a 17-year-old bride. Now, she is part of one of the few surviving families dependent on the remote Telangana village’s famous scroll paintings for a livelihood. Also known as Nakashi art, the 400-year-old scroll painting craft of Cheriyal village, located 24 km from Siddipet district, now bears a geographical indications (GI) tag of its own.

Manga, who learnt the art from her husband Mallesham, is now a master of the craft. Though not formally educated, she is currently an entrepreneur in her own right. She also teaches the art form to local women, thereby generating employment for them. Until a while ago, though, the family used to earn only about Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per month, Manga tells TNM. “We did not have the awareness or means to make our paintings accessible to a larger public. At the time, we used to sell them via the Lepakshi emporium,” she says.

It was as recently as in 2020, when she started to associate with the Telangana government’s startup incubator WeHub (Woman Entrepreneurs Hub), that the situation gradually began to change. A state-led incubator that aims to promote and foster entrepreneurial skills among women, WeHub is currently helping her market her paintings to a wide range of customers.

With the help of the incubator, Manga began to work on better marketing strategies and in turn started to get more orders. “WeHub updates us with areas where exhibitions are held, so that we can set up stalls there to sell our products. We earn around Rs 50,000-70,000 a month now,” she says.

According to Manga, her association with WeHub strengthened at a time when she was facing a difficult time personally. “Last year, during the pandemic, my husband met with an accident. This was when we were at our lowest, especially financially. Around this time, I had to go to Hyderabad to display and demonstrate our product at the WeHub in Hyderabad. After that, with the WeHub’s help, we secured an order worth Rs 2 lakh. This was our biggest order until then. Our lives have since changed for the better,” she says.

Though there is not much capital investment required to make Cheriyal paintings, there is a lot of hard work going into it, says Manga. “It takes hours to make these paintings. One needs a lot of patience and concentration, and has to sit for many hours to finish them. Because of this, we also deal with a number of health issues. Our knees, eyes, and neck all get affected.”

In the olden days, the Cheriyal paintings were traditionally used for the visual depiction of storytelling. These stories were showcased on sheets/khadi clothes, which gave them the name ‘scroll paintings’. With the decline in the culture of street storytelling, the Cheriyal paintings too have now changed form, to be mostly used as decor items. “We are updating ourselves and the art we make so that they stay relevant in the current times. So, we make our traditional art with a modern touch. We make wall paintings, key chains, and face masks,” says Manga.

The 36-year-old says that they do not use chemicals or machinery while making the paintings. “They are completely handmade. All we use is a paste of tamarind powder, wood powder, and coconut shells. We get the natural colours we need from Vijayawada,” she adds.

Manga currently runs her stalls with the help of her daughters Mounika and Akhila, who are studying in Class 9 and pursuing a polytechnic course respectively. “I do not have a formal education, but both of my daughters are getting educated. When we have time, our entire family sits and makes these paintings at our home. If we have set up stalls, they come and help manage it.”

Manga and her family, with the help of WeHub, are next planning to set up an exclusive online platform for Cheriyal paintings, a dream yet to materialise. “As of now, we take orders via phone. When people call us and ask for customised Cheriyal paintings, we make them and send them by courier. So far, we have sent paintings to places including Hyderabad, Nagpur, Bangalore, and more.” 

If you are interested in placing an order for a Cheriyal painting, you can contact 8106385582.

Also read:

From scrolls to masks: How Telangana's 400-yr-old Cheriyal paintings have evolved

Meet Shilpa, Telangana entrepreneur who runs a sericulture unit powered by local women

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