Tribal Paintings of India - Seeker's Thoughts

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Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

Tribal Paintings of India


Tribal Paintings of India











Tribal Paintings of India


Tradition ellement, these artists used the walls of their clay huts as their canvas. Neem sticks and twigs served as brushes while natural dyes were employed as pigments.


The Gonds are an ancient tribal group who are scattered throughout Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh. Their art is highly ritualistic; depictions range from mythological characters to scenes from daily life.



Warli Paintings


Warli tribe members employ pictorial language to express their beliefs and lives. Since they believe in reincarnation, their paintings often represent spiritual themes; furthermore, their art depicting nature is very close to nature as they understand that its sources provide vital life support systems.


Warli Painting

Warli Art is a form of tribal wall painting practiced by the Gond tribe of central India. Warli paintings traditionally covered the walls of their clay huts using white pigment created from a mixture of rice paste and gum; when painting was complete the brush used was made from chewed bamboo stick end.


Warli paintings typically depicted the figures as stick figures with triangular bodies; male figures were usually represented as upside-down triangles with broad shoulders and narrow waists while females resembled hour glass figures. Circles were an omnipresent motif throughout Warli art as they represent eternity.


As the tribe has an intimate connection to nature, their paintings feature hunting, farming, rituals, daily life activities, village life and elements of nature and wildlife. Furthermore, celebrations for various events or festivals are depicted. Additionally, rituals play an integral part of tribal beliefs regarding how life continues with no beginning or endpoint.


Jivya Mashe is an internationally-recognized Warli artist credited with popularising this art form and winning him recognition from authorities such as receiving the Padma Shri award for his efforts in keeping Warli alive. Working closely with Ganjad and Dahanu villages of Palghar district, he works tirelessly in spreading Warli culture.



Manjusha Paintings


Manjusha art is a form of line drawing and folk painting practiced by Bhils who live in India, featuring colourful geometric designs that depict sacrifice, love and determination. Believed to have its roots in ancient Anga Mahajanapada culture, Manjusha art depicts Bihula Bishari traveling back home after carrying her husband's body to heaven on NumaManjusha (Number One Manjusha).


Manjusha art first gained international renown between 1931 and 1948 when an ICS officer named W.G Archer visited the region. Mesmerised by traditional Manjusha paintings on ceremonial boxes created for Bishahari Puja festival, Archer began researching this form of art and eventually amassed a comprehensive Manjusha art collection that soon received international recognition.


Today, many artisans are working to resurrect this traditional art form. The Bihar government has taken steps to raise awareness and host training workshops to encourage young artisans to continue the practice of this traditional art form. They even require all Zilla Parishad banks to hang Manjusha paintings in their lobby as an essential way of providing market access and increasing income streams for artisans practicing it.


Manjusha art is an intricate form of linear and scroll folk painting which depicts events and characters from the Bihula Bishiari legend. Its borders typically take the form of Belpatr, Lehariya Triangle Mokha; major motifs used include Champa flowers, snakes, Kamal flower buds, Kalash pot, arrow and bow and Shivlings - with characters identified by what they hold in their hands: Jaya Bishahari with amrit kalash bow/arrow combo in one hand; Dhotila holds lotus with Dhotila holding lotus; Padmavathi has chariot before Mynah holds her Mynah while Maya/Manasa holds snakes as characters from Bihula Bishiari legend.



Sohrai Khavar Paintings


Women painters of Hazaribagh district bring nature into their homes through vibrant wall paintings that bring flowers, fauna and celebratory seasons like harvest and marriage into being. Art provides a language of symbols conveying traditions and rituals; Pashupati (lord of animals), Kamla Baan (forest of lotuses) and Tree of Life are some of the symbols seen throughout these traditional wall paintings in red, ochre yellow black white hues as their signature designs.


Sohrai and Khovar art is an indigenous tribal painting style found among ethnic communities of Jharkhand's Hazaribagh district. Tribal women use natural mud-colored hues to paint these artworks on the walls of their mud houses - this art form dates back centuries and stands as one of the oldest intact ritual symbol traditions worldwide.


Sohrai and Khovar mural art forms are typically found during harvest festivals and weddings, when painters capture the spirit of nature by merging their personal imagination with it to produce these striking paintings that vary greatly from village to village and community to community.


Sohrai and Khovar paintings remain popular works of art; however, due to changing times they are now endangered. With tribals moving into permanent brick and cement houses that don't allow traditional painting methods being practiced there, these beautiful tribal pieces are slowly disappearing from our world. In an effort to protect these traditions villagers have begun conducting workshops and training programmes which foster pride in identity while instilling confidence into these women artists.


Pahari Paintings


Pahari painting flourished from the 17th to 19th centuries in kingdoms at the foot of Himalayan mountains, such as Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Basohli Kulu Guler Kangra which were established by Rajput kings from Rajasthan who took great pleasure in commissioning artists with distinctive styles to illustrate manuscripts and muraqqas commissioned from them by these Rajput rulers.


Pahari paintings covered themes ranging from mythology to literature and new techniques were introduced. Pahari paintings are distinguished by their ability to convey emotions with freedom of expression and cultural context as well as local colour influences. One prominent Pahari theme depicting eternal love between Hindu deities Radha and Krishna was central. 


A typical Pahari canvas sheet features many figures all animated - each having unique composition, colors and pigmentations techniques applied.


Nurpur and Kangra styles of Pahari paintings are two primary genres. Nurpur features bolder colours with flat backgrounds while Kangra employs more naturalistic techniques that give depth to their paintings, as well as emphasizing Indian women's grace and sophistication.


Pahari miniature paintings are now an endangered art form, according to Padma Shri awardee Vijay Sharma who recently reported there are no policies in place to safeguard this art form; without immediate government support and patronage from Maharajas of Indian business it could all but vanish into obscurity. 


One major collection that still exists - now housed at Museum Rietberg Zurich - is Horst Metzger's Horst Metzger Collection that boasts both poetic utterances as well as scholarly authority - both elements.



Pithora Paintings


Pithora wall paintings of Gujarat capture the joy and vibrancy of tribal culture that relies heavily on agriculture for sustenance. 


This art form is practiced by Rathwa and Bhils tribes from central India - particularly around Bharuch - who specialize in it as a ritual form. Their ritual art has garnered both national and international acclaim as it represents their daily activities as well as depicts their faith in nature and reverence for God.


Artistic work done on walls usually uses natural pigments sourced from earth such as white lime, green sanguan leaves, black lampblack and red vermilion for painting scenes from village life - such as scenes of farming, hunting, celebrations like weddings and festivals as well as depicting images of ancestors and god. Paintings usually feature one large front or central wall which is twice larger than its sidewalls.


Tradition dictated that paintings such as those produced for childbirth and marriage be prepared as auspicious occasions arrived, such as healing illness and warding off bad luck. 


Today however, Pithora paintings are most commonly seen as forms of worship; typically featuring large horses and bulls representing god as its main focus alongside various figures like bowri or step wells, women churning butter or even sun and moon figures to complete the picture.


Rathwa Adivasis living in parts of Panchmahal district in Gujarat use Pithora paintings as an act of divine communion with their Goddess Pithoro, whom they consider their deity. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, only unmarried girls can bring in materials needed for painting on walls coated with mud or cow-dung paste walls.

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