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Premola Ghosh

By Gita Wolf ; Carlo Collodi
Tara Books, Chennai, 2014, pp. 24; pp. 188, Rs. 550.00 each


Visit to the Bhil Carnival is a charming book created by Subhash Amaliyar, a Bhil artist from Jhabua in central India. Using the Bhil style of painting, it depicts the traditional carnival, Bhagoria, held each year around Holi. In the Bhil dialect, ‘bhagoria’ means ‘run’ and it is a celebration after the harvest season. According to the Madhya Pradesh Tourism website the word bhag or run is associated with the selection of partners and elopement, but local Bhils do not accept this interpretation. Politics aside, the painting is about fun, celebration and is alive with movement.  A large and intricate painting forms the centrepiece of this delightful book. The opening lines are: ‘Neela and his sister Peela are off to the fair’ and with that the viewer follows them as they walk along a red road, meet the balloon seller and enter the carnival as the whole panorama of the fairground unfolds. There are people, birds, animals, stalls, an action packed scene. The red road takes the viewer along with Neela (who is blue black) and Peela (who is yellow) to the ferris wheel, a group of dancers, the toy shop, ice cream seller, a sinister snake tree, the outdoor photo studio, the big fight and back home.  The giant ferris wheel is in a separate fold in the painting, that pops up just like the real ferris wheel’s large scale dominates a fairground. The written narrative—Stories—is a separate booklet but blends into the main painting as Neela walks into it. The story-painting uses space well, the red road is like a running thread with free-standing boards marking the spots visited by Neela and Peela. If the viewer would like to stray, there are other things to see and do and perhaps enter the painting and join the carnival! I find the presence of the snake tree interesting as it locates the scene at the edge of the forest where the Bhils live. What is refreshing is that ‘reading’ the painting gives viewers a chance to create their own stories and add their own experiences of the fairs they visit. Sadly the 21st century Bhil carnival does not have a bioscope, but the photography stall with its tented shack is still there. Peela poses with an outstretched arm and this is reflected in the camera. Since the story has been conceived for children, the focus is on ...

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