Understanding The Various Rich Indian Tribal Art Forms

Posted on 4 May, 2016 by Team Wishberry

Understanding-The-Various-Rich-Indian-Tribal-Art-Forms India bleeds of creativity! From dance, music, movies, to art, our country is rich in cultural heritage and home to numerous forms of art. Hence, we decided to learn all about this rich culture, and dove deep into understanding the essence of tribal and folk art practiced in different parts of the country.


Madhubani/Mithala painting is one of the most popular a folk arts from our country, an art form passed down for generations from mother to daughter in the northern part of Bihar, Madhubanior Mithila. The paintings are usually mythological, covering stories of Ram-Sita, Krishna-Radha, Ganesh, and so on to a floral, animal and bird motif backgrounds with hardly any empty space left. The art is practised in different styles: Bharni: The paintings are filled with bright colours. Katchni: The figures and painting is filled with fine lines, and muted hues. Geru/Gobar: Practiced by the lower class as a form of expression, the art is practised by using colours of the earth washed with cow dung. Godna: Also a form of art practised by the lower class where the colours used are black and maybe one or two lighter shades. Tantric:  Based solely on religious texts and characters.
Madhubani Image Courtesy: ArtsOfTheEarthIndia.in


Unlike most Indian tribal art, Warli doesn’t celebrate art with an explosion of colours. Everything about it is earthy and soothing. From the fragrance of wet soil, to the very basic graphic vocab - a circle, a triangle and a square, the paintings capture elegance and charm. The Warlis are an indigenous tribe residing around the mountainous and coastal areas of Maharashtra/Gujarat border.
Warli Image Courtesy: ExoticIndia.com


Gond art form has been developed by the Gondi tribe of Central India. The word Gond is derived from the Dravidian expression kond which means ‘the green mountain’. The art form celebrates everything that the nature offers - the hills, forests and streams; animals, birds and humans, everything. Story telling is a strong element and an expression of everyday quest for life is a major element of the art.
Gond Image Courtesy: Sonalika.net


Originating from the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, Bhil is a distinctive art form deeply rooted in the culture of a tribal community of the same name. Just like the Gonds, Bhils believe paintings are the best form of offering prayers. Each painting is composed of myriad dots creating different patterns (while the Gond form covers lines and dashes), and each dot represents a deity as well as living organisms. The art showcases everything from human joys of birth to rituals.
Bhill Image Courtesy: Shopify.com


Traditionally made from handmade paper, backed with cloth, these scrolls contain vibrantly painted scenes of a mythology. Patua scroll painters travel to various villages singing stories about the pictures depicted in their scrolls.
Patua Image Courtesy: Blogspot.com


Practiced mostly in Puri district, Orissa and bordering regions of West Bengal, Pattachitra is generally created on cloth bringing religious themes and deities to life. The paintings depict epics in sharp, angular bold lines with a heavy influence of the Mughal era.
Patachitra Image Courtesy: OrissaGuide.com


Maru-Gurjar painting is one term which collectively denotes all the paintings from the state of Rajasthan. The paintings more or less were broadly of two types courtly and literary. Courtly are the portraits of Rajput rulers, while literary is art via poetry. The major schools of art are Mewar, Marwar, Kishangarh, Bundi, Kota, Jaipur and Alwar. Also, phad, miniature, kajali, gemstone and many other styles of paintings developed: Phad: A religious form of scroll painting depicting folk deities Pabuji or Devnarayan. Miniature: As the title states, the paintings are miniature in size influenced by Persian styles of art; women with large eyes, pointed nose and slim waist, and men with identical features alongwith a turban.
MaruGurjar Image Courtesy: YugartBundi.com


Originated from Kalahasti/Srikalahasti (near Chennai) and Masulipatnam/Machilipatnam (near Hyderabad) the paintings depict scenes from mythologies and are also a block-printing form of art. The art is heavily influenced by Persian motifs and designs.
Kalamkari Image Courtesy: TheArtisticBlog.com


Thanjavur paintings are created using a style and technique of the Maratha period - a well-rounded body and almond shaped eyes. Also, gold leaves and sparkly stones are used to highlight certain aspects of the painting like ornaments, dresses etc.
Thankavur Image Courtesy: Rediff.com


The art form is practised by the Nakashi family, and has been passed down for many generations. The scrolls depict day to day lives of communities like fishermen, toddy tappers, fruit gatherers, etc. The scrolls also depict puranas and epics that resemble a comic panel.  Apart from scrolls this art form is practiced on dolls and masks.
Cheriyal Image Courtesy: Blogspot.com


Kalighat paintings or pata depict the inverted life of common people in social order like wives beating husbands, maidservants wearing shoes, sahibs in undignified postures, etc. The object of this is only partly satirical; it expresses the wonder of exposure to new and curious ways and objects.
Kalighat Image Courtesy: Kalarte.com


Practiced by the Rathwa community, from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, Pithora art follows a very similar style to that of Bhil art. The paintings are characterized by seven horses representing the seven hills that surround the area where the Rathwas reside.
width="550" Image Courtesy: Flickr.com

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