The Painter or the khanikar

In Assam, the painter was known by the most popular name khanikar.

A khanikar could be a sculptor, an engraver, a carpenter, a maker of earthen images, a painter, a class of pāiks (labourers under Ahom Kings) whose principal duty was to paint, make images, etc. Actually, the khanikars were a professional group and never a caste group. Muslim artisans and craftsmen were incorporated in the Khanikar-khel or the guild of artisans under the superintendent known as Khanikar Baruā.

The village Khanikar enjoyed an important position in the cultural life of the people. Without him, no bhāwnā or theatricals could be imagined. For, he not only painted the scenes and sets but also dressed the actors and designed their costumes and accessories. Masks or mukhās were also made by him for superhuman roles like that of Hanumāna.

“He had derived his inspiration from and perfected his skill in the arts from an accumulated fund of hereditary knowledge. ”