Handmade paintings of deities becoming a dying art

Bhaktapur, October 29

Over the years, traditional hand painted pictures of Lakshmi, also known as the Goddess of wealth and beauty, have become a dying art.

With the arrival of the printing press in the country, people have started using printed pictures of god and goddess; a much cheaper alternative.

“A portrait of Lakshmi is a necessity during the Dhana Lakshami puja. Therefore, almost everyone makes it a point to buy it.

But these days people prefer printed pictures rather than the original, handmade ones,” said Sarmila Chitrakar, who has been painting Hindu deities for the last 30 years and supplying them as per the demands of the people.

She informed that these days only the Newari community still opt for handmade pictures.

From the ancient times of the Malla monarchy till now, the Chitrakars were engaged in various forms of art  such as drawing, paintings and sculpting .

“To paint on paper requires effort and time thus costing more than a printed one,” added Chitrakar.

In Bhaktapur, the Chitrakars from the Thalachhen, Nasmana and Taumadi vicinity  continue to paint pictures of Hindu deities despite the decline in demand.

Today. more than 200,000 printed pictures are imported from India during this festival while only 10,000 handmade paintings were reported to be sold.

He said “If our people used locally produced traditional handmade paintings, one could carve a decent living from it.”

With the passage of time, it is apparent that people have evolved and rituals have been modified to adapt to modern times thus irrevocably impacting customs and traditions of the olden days.