The Jadu Patuas are painters and story tellers and go from village to village carrying their painted scrolls made of paper sheets sewn together with a bamboo stick on each extremity.
Jadu means "Magician". The themes they represent on the scrolls are limited. There is about a dozen themes. However, there is different interpretation for each theme. A Jadu Patua can, looking at one scroll, say different stories depending if his audience is Hindu, Muslim or Santal. This last ethnic group is the most important audience for the Jadu Patuas.
The Jadu Patuas live with the money that the villagers give them after listening to their stories. The fact that they are magicians give a special effect to their intervention because the villagers fear them.
One of the most revealing images of the Jadu Patuas' role (in the Santal community) is the "Mritu pat" or "image of the deaths". When somebody dies in a village near the Jadu Patua's one, the "artist magician" visits the family of the dead with a small and simple image (about 3 x 2 inches) which is supposed to represent the dead in a simple way. Only the late person's pupil is missing. Showing this image to the family, the Jadu Patua tells the story evoking the suffering of the dead whose soul is still trapped in hell. The family then gives an offering to the Jadu Patua in order for him to intervene. The ritual for the Magician painter consists then to paint the dead's pupil in order to free his soul.
The principles developed by the Jadu Patuas are : the Baha's feast (a strange mixture of Hindu and Santal myths showing a lot of festivities where tribal dances, sacrifices and drinking sessions scenes are mixed); the creation of the world (where we can see the first human couple being born from the coupling of a goose and a gander); the painting of Kali (composed with 3 or 4 paper sheets only, showing Kali in her most terrifying aspects) and a lot of scrolls about Yama, the god of hell (showing all the ill treatments, sometimes sexual, given by Yama and his servants to the dead who behaved badly during their lifetime).
It seems that the scarier the Jadu Patuas'style gets, the more highly he is regarded.
Painter, storyteller and magician
Jadupatua, Jharkhand, India 1998.