WARLI PAINTINGS – Indigenous Age-old Tribal Art

Origin of Warli, it’s history and significance, how to read the paintings, and few fun facts about Warli Paintings will be discussed here!

Warli painting is a tribal form of art and one of the famous Indian Fork Art, traced back to 10th Century AD. These paintings use a set of basic geometrical figures and common shapes like lines, circles, triangles etc, which represents the Mother Nature. Warli is the name of the largest tribe found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, in Western India

Yashodhara Dalmia, in her book ‘The Painted World of the Warlis’, claims that Warli tradition goes way back to 2500 or 3000 BCE. 

Warli painting, being a Tribal and sacred art, originates from North Sahyadri ranges encompassing Dahanu, Talasari, Palghar, Mokhada and Jowhar which is situated in the state of Maharashtra. Warli paintings were drawn by woman on the occasion of the marriage ceremony.

White colour is mostly used for painting with occasional use of yellow and red dots and they are painted on an austere mud base. The white colour is made by putting together rice paste and water with gum acting as a binding agent. Bamboo stick with one end chewed was used as a paint brush. They are usually painted on an austere mud base or on mud walls of the houses.

These paintings serve as a medium of expressing and depicting the social and religious aspirations for the local people. Unlike most traditional art forms, warli was/is not used to depict mythological characters or images of deities but to show the respect towards Mother Nature.

Maharashtra is known for its Warli folk paintings. 


At present, the background of the painting has been replaced from mud walls to paper or fabric for show casing in exhibitions. The simple yet beautifully delicate patterns and the intricate geometric patterns of the walri style is quite popular among home decors and fashion designers due to the certain appeal to the contrasts of the colour. Warli Art was first discovered in the early seventies dating as early as the 10th century A.D. 

Jivya Soma Mashe, the artist in Thane district has played a great role in making the Warli paintings more popular. He has been honoured with a number of national and central level awards for his paintings. In the year 2011, he was awarded Padmashree

Believed that Warli paintings invoke powers of the Gods and represent a sense of togetherness.


Circles represent the Sun and the Moon while Triangles represent mountains, trees, while human along with animal bodies are drawn with inverse triangles joining at the tip. The upward facing triangles represents the male while downward represents the females. The squares represent a sacred enclosure for the mother goddess symbolizing fertility. A straight line is never seen in Warli art. One of the central aspects depicted in many Warli Paintings is the Tarpa dance. Tarpa means a trumpet like instrument is played in turns by the villagers. The participants entwine their hands and move in a circle around the Tarpa player.

Warli art to some extent makes one think of being environmentally conscious and finding joy in simple things of life. Warli people worshipped Nature and were dependent on nature for food and water supplies. They did not believe in disrupting nature or taking more than needed. The Warli people believe in harmony between nature and man and these beliefs are often reflected in their paintings.

Coca-Cola India launched a campaign featuring Warli painting in order to highlight the ancient culture and represent a sense of togetherness. The campaign was called “Come Home on Deepawali” and specifically targeted the modern youth. The campaign included advertising on traditional mass media, combined with radio, the Internet, and out-of-home media.


  •  It is a folk style of painting
  • This art form symbolizes importance of nature, wildlife, and the balance of the universe.
  • Warli also painting covers day to day activities of village people like dancing, playing and performing puja.
  • Tarpa dance is the central aspect of every Warli paintings

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