Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chipko-like movement in Bihar invokes the divine

Manoj Chaurasia in Patna

In a novel campaign to save trees, painters of the Madhubani school of painting have taken up their brushes to paint trees with images of Hindu gods and goddesses, applying coats of vibrant colours. The movement is anchored in the belief that the images would put the fear of god in those who are armed with axes and saws to cut down trees for crass commercial gains.

The movement is in a way a continuation of what a few years back a senior official in the state did ~ paint a notoriously lawless town in south Bihar with soothing shades of pink in the hope that it would foster communal harmony. The unique campaign to conserve environment ~ a little  different from the Chipko Movement started way back in the early 1970s in the Himalayan region to protect trees from being felled by hugging them ~ has been launched in north Bihar’s Madhubani district which shares its borders with Nepal. This is the first time that the residents have turned to “divine therapy”, as it were, by using deities as a cover to discourage the public from felling trees.

Local artists from Madhubani have been roped in to paint tree trunks and leaves with images depicting various tales from Hindu epics or of deities to ensure the locals do not fell trees, for fear of incurring the wrath of the gods and goddesses. Hundreds of trees have been painted in the district so far which has not only given a colourful look to the roadside trees but boosted mass awareness about environmental conservation.

“People ruthlessly chopping trees with axes and saws always gave me a lot of pain. I tried to convince them that this is not good for environment but they never took it seriously. So I hit upon the plan to paint scenes from Hindu epics  or images of gods on tree trunks thinking it can work wonders, and, it has really begun working now,” said Mr Shashthi Nath Jha who has launched the campaign to protect environment in Bihar. He said around a hundred artists have joined the campaign painting trees with images of deities after taking time off their studies.

The basic themes being painted are Sita swayamvara, Radha-Krishna love lore, various moods of Meera etc. “Apart from strong natural colours, we are also using chemical paints to colour trees so that they can survive rain and heat and last long,” said Mr Jha, who is also working for women empowerment and child labour rehabilitation thorough his NGO, Gramin Vikas Parishad.

Local artists are voluntarily joining in and their tribe is increasing by the day. “This gives me a lot of satisfaction to be associated with such a noble cause. I have been painting images of gods and goddesses on trees so that people think hundred times before cutting down trees," said Seema
Das, who is adept in the art of Madhubani painting.

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