Bhajju Shyam is a renowned ‘Gond’ Artist from Madhya Pradesh, India, who gained global recognition through his book ‘The London Jungle Book’. His Uncle, Jangarh Singh Shyam, who was the first Gond Artist to use paper and canvas for his artworks, mentored Bhajju Shyam.
The Gonds, the largest tribal Community in India are of Dravidian origin and can be traced to the pre-Aryan era. The word Gond comes from Kond, which means green mountains in the dravidian idiom. The Gond called themselves Koi or Koiture, but others called them Gond since they lived in the green mountains.
The Gonds paint their walls with vibrant depictions of local flora, fauna and gods such as Marahi Devi and Phulvari Devi (Goddess Kali). Traditionally made on festive occasions such as Karwa Chauth, Diwali, Ashtami and Nag Panchmi, Gond painting depicts various celebrations, rituals and man’s relationship with nature. The artists use natural colors derived from charcoal, colored soil, plant sap, leaves, and cow dung. This mystical art form is created by putting together dots and lines. The imaginative use of the line imparts a sense of movement to the still images. The paintings are an offering in worship of nature, and are also a mode of seeking protection and warding off evil. In the eyes of a Gond artist, everything is sacred and intimately connected to nature.
The Pardhans, a small sub group of the Gond tribal community in the Mandala district of Madhya Pradesh is known for their visual creativity. In1982 some of the Pardhan Gond painters like Jangarh Singh Shyam and Narmada Gond started painting on paper. To begin with the subjects of their paintings were confined to the images of their god and goddesses, myths and folktales, birds and animals. They developed a more unique style of painting using bright colors and simple forms, decorated with dots and lines. Subsequently this style has come to be popularly known as Gond painting.