The Pardhan minstrels recalled the glory of the Gonds through myths and epics that are passed on from father to son, and they were paid by their Gond patrons to keep this collective memory alive and this had importance for their communal identity.
Invasions by the Mughals and the Marathas had adverse impact on the indigenous cultures. The decline that began in the beginning of the nineteenth century, accelerated with the British who replaced their social systems with their own institutions and these were maintained by the Government administration that followed. The Gonds could not continue to support Pardhans and although they were still called to sing and play at ritual occasions such as funerals and Persa Pen feasts, Pardhans could no longer rely on the gifts of the Gonds and they had to look for other sources of income through agriculture and menial work.
In 1979 a team of cultural researchers from Bhopal arrived at Patangarh village in remote Eastern Madhya Pradesh. Their attention focused on some wall murals by a talented young man called Jangarh Singh Shyam who was then invited to Bhopal where his artistic development was supported – and this ultimately led him to develop a whole new form of artistic expression for the Pardhans. As his work became more popular, Jangarh required assistance in his artistic commissions and so his younger relatives began to follow him to the city. Encouraged by Jangarh, some of them were able to use the medium of brush and canvas to earn a living.
They began to depict their myths and deities through visual media, and as they began to paint as a trade, they were also encouraged to depict popular deities such as Ganesh as salable commodities. Today a prolific group of about fifty Pardhan Gond artists reside in Bhopal. Some, including Durga Bai and Subhash Vyam, Bhajju Shyam and Venkat Raman Singh Shyam have gone on to achieve national and international recognition through exhibitions, workshops and book illustration.
This gallery of art is presently in the care of the Adivasi Arts Trust. The paintings are by the most well known contemporary Pardhan Gond artists including Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, Bhajju Shyam, Durga Bai Vyam and Rajendra Shyam. The are mostly mounted and are available for sale.
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