Cheriyal stories adorn the walls inside the Rashtrapati Nilayam in Hyderabad

Resplendent murals by a team of artists depict traditional festivals, occupations, agricultural practices and the importance of educating the girl child

April 07, 2023 12:21 pm | Updated 12:21 pm IST

Cheiryal art

Cheiryal art | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“A slice of Cheriyal is in Rashtrapati Nilayam,” says artist Dhanalakota Saikiran as he walks us through the 163-foot kitchen tunnel at Rashatrapati Nilayam in Hyderabad. Ever since the President’s official winter retreat was thrown open to the public after a makeover, people have been making a beeline to peek into the estate that serves as the Southern sojourn. A covered corridor connecting the kitchen and dining hall, is now resplendent with murals, masks, and animal heads in the Telangana folk art form of Cheriyal.

The team of artists (from L to R)  Nagilla yamani, Nagilla Ashvini, Dhanalakota Rakesh, Nagilla Ganesh, Dhanalakota Saikiran, Dhanalakota Vinay, Dhanalakota Sravan Kumar 
and Nampally Abhilash Varma

The team of artists (from L to R) Nagilla yamani, Nagilla Ashvini, Dhanalakota Rakesh, Nagilla Ganesh, Dhanalakota Saikiran, Dhanalakota Vinay, Dhanalakota Sravan Kumar  and Nampally Abhilash Varma | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The mural painting team comprises Nagilla Ganesh and his two daughters Yamani and Ashvini. Dhanalakota Rakesh, Vinay and Sravan Kumar, Nampally Abhilash Varma; Dhanalakota Nageshwar and Padma, and Ramigiri Anudeep, painted the masks and animal heads.

Dhanalakota Nageshwar

Dhanalakota Nageshwar | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

At the end of the corridor, there are two boards recounting the history of the kitchen tunnel and of Cheriyal art.

Rare honour

Dhanalakota Padma

Dhanalakota Padma | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“We feel privileged to paint a section of this prestigious building. Our art has embellished the walls of Rashtrapati Nilayam and brought honour to Cheriyal,” says Saikiran, who now lives in Hyderabad. The 400-year-old art form named after the village is a stylized version of the Nakashi art form typical of the Telangana region.

Having learnt Cheriyal art from their father Ganesh, Yamini and Ashwini call this a memorable experience. Painting for around 10 years now, the duo have travelled with their father for projects in Nagpur, Lucknow and Khajuraho. “It feels nice to see Cheriyal art occupy a special place on the walls of the kitchen tunnel,” says Yamini.

Two pairs of masks and a hand-painted elephant head greet visitors at the entrance; “We have created concepts in art on the wall; our thematic paintings that run along the walls are 24 and 18 feet long,” says Saikiran. The murals are interspersed with Cheriyal masks and animal heads.

Attractive traditions

Cheriyal art on the walls

Cheriyal art on the walls | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Traditional occupations, festivals, agricultural practices and Nature are some of the themes painted on the wall. The importance of educating the girl child is depicted through a series of visuals in Cheriyal on one section. An Anganwadi worker explains why education is important to a couple, after this, there is a panel depicting a mother dropping her daughter at school, the girl finishing college and, as an employed woman, working on a laptop. Unlike traditional Cheriyal art wherein artists use a red background to highlight the blue and white colours for mythological characters, here the artists have experimented with light green, brown and orange hues.

The sunlight peeping through seven ventilators creates a serene ambience and adds beauty to this pictorial presentation.

The team took 20 days to finish the project. “When President Droupadi Murmu’s virtual inauguration of the Rashtrapati Nilayam virtually was aired on television, we also shared the videos on social media. Everyone in the village was so happy,” says Saikiran with a wide smile.

(Rashtrapati Nilayam is closed on Mondays; Entrance fee: ₹50)

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