Brotos are the traditional magico-religious rituals observed primarily by the women of Bengal through the ages. Each of these Brotos have their own unique Alpona (floor drawing) that goes along with it.
Man has held communion with God through various means since time immemorial – speech, art and physical expressions. Since ancient times, the women of Bengal have used Alpona, a form of painting on floors and walls with their fingers, to communicate with their Gods. This art form is called the “Broto Alponas” of Bengal, which has virtually disappeared today.
Alpona is a domestic ritual art of the women of rural Bengal, connected with religious rites. Since ancient times, womenfolk, both from animistic tribes and rural communities, have been performing specific rites to their Gods in order to obtain divine blessings that would safeguard them and their loved ones from misfortune and also ensure their health and prosperity. The women undertook strenuous vows to satisfy the Gods to achieve fulfilment of their wishes. These vows are called Vratas or Brotos.
Brotos have occupied the major part of the religious lives of the womenfolk since ancient times. Traditionally Brotos have been associated with wealth, wellbeing, human fertility,agriculture, for fertility of the soil, to induce rain, to protect crops. They are also observed to cure diseases, evade disasters, grant good husbands and fulfil a spectrum of miscellaneous needs. Sometimes, the objective of these Brotos are negative, a desire to harm others – especially the co-wives or other family enemies.
VO: In Bengal, the observance of a Broto has always been preceded by the ritual drawing of specific decorative motifs known as Alpona. The chanting of ‘magic’ verses called chharas and the narration of stories or Broto katha eulogizing the deity would follow. It was believed that the force generated from this combined ‘magic’ would yield the desired results.
Parallels can be drawn with Brotos and other ancient rituals all over the world – like - ancient Pagan rituals, Shaman rituals of the Native Americans, witch doctor rituals of Africa and so on.
The rites performed in all these are equivalent to the puja ceremony in Brotos – with ‘magic’ ingredients, magic chantings like the chharas and magic drawings like the Alponas.