Indian Folk Art

• Warli paintings

Warlis or Varlis are an indigenous tribes or adivasis living in the mountainous as well as coastal areas on the Maharastra-Gujarat border and surrounding areas. They have their own animistic beliefs, life, customs and traditions. As a result of acculturation, they have adopted many Hindu beliefs. Their extremely rudimentary Wall paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary a circle, or triangle and a square. Their paintings were monosyllabic. The circle and the triangle come from the observation of nature, the circle representing the sun and the moon, the triangle derived from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square seems to be a different logic and seems to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land.

The ritual paintings are usually done inside their huts. The walls are made of a mixture of branches, earth and cow dung making a red ochre background for wall paintings. Warlis use only white in their paintings. The white pigment used by them is a mixture of rice paste and water with gum as a binding. As the brush, they use a bamboo stick chewed at the end to make it as supple as a paintbrush. The wall paintings are done only on special occasions such as weddings or harvests. Warli art is the cultural intellectual property of the tribal community. Today, there is an urgent need for preserving this traditional knowledge in tribal communities across the globe. Now, Warli painting is registered with a geographical indication under the intellectual property rights act. With the use of technology and the concept of social entrepreneurship, tribals established the Warli Art Foundation, a non-profit company dedicated to Warli art and related activities.

• Cave paintings in India

Almost all early painting in India survives in caves, as very few buildings from ancient India survive. The history of cave paintings in India or rock art range from drawings and paintings from prehistoric times – beginning around 30000 BCE in the caves of Central India, typified by those at the Bhimbetka rock shelters – to elaborate frescoes at sites such as the rock cut artificial caves at Ajanta and Ellora, prevalent as late as the 8th – 10th century CE. The frescoes of Ajanta are paintings in the Ajanta caves, which are situated near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The caves are carved out of large rocks. Inside many of the caves are frescoes. Frescoes are paintings which are done on wet plaster in which colours become fixed on the walls and ceilings at Ajanta.

The paintings reflect different phases of Indian culture from Jain tirthankar Mahaveer’s birth to his Nirvana in the 8th century AD. The frescoes have degraded slightly due to the effect of flash photography. Photography here is not banned. The paintings depict themes of court life, feasting, processions, men and women at work, festivals and various natural scenes including animals and birds and flowers. The artists used shading to give a three-dimensional effect.

Similarly, beautiful frescoes have been found at the Bagh caves, 150 km away to the North of Ajanta. Though the themes in these paintings are both secular and religious, they do depict some aspects of Buddhist life and rituals. One of the most famous paintings show a procession of elephants. Another depicts a dancer and women musicians. These have been influenced by the Ajanta style of painting. These frescoes show a strong resemblance to the frescoes of Sigriya in Sri Lanka.

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