For thousands of millennia, folk art has been a part of Indian traditions. From prehistoric cave paintings in Bhimbetka rock shelters from Madhya Pradesh to intricate wall art of Madhubani from Bihar from the Ramayana period to the elaborate frescoes in the rock-cut artificial caves at Ajanta and Ellora of Maharashtra, extending as late as the 10th - 12th century, every region of the country has had its own artistic traditions.
Heavily influenced by the symbolism of the divine gods, these Indian traditional paintings evolved from simple depictions of Mother Nature trees, birds, animals, and man - to deities. They include detailed representations of the universe like the sun, moon, and other spiritual concepts along with the elements of the universe, religious practices, and ethnic practices.
These art forms incorporate values, cultural practices, and belief systems; they frequently serve as a common language in which the various communities that makeup society can engage.
The Importance of Traditional Indian Paintings
This ethnically diverse country's diverse folk art traditions form the foundation of its rich heritage and are more than just an important part of its culture. These folk paintings, which reflect the distinct characteristics and collective stories of communities, serve as a link to India's rich history and diverse traditions. As a result, they play an important role in strengthening the country's personal and cultural identity.
Indian traditional paintings are rooted in longstanding rich traditions and culture, but they also have a rich potential for adaptation to the present, serving as a rich source of inspiration and innovation for the development of culturally distinct content.
Popular Indian Traditional Arts
The folk arts of India are an embodiment of the country's diverse cultures, and each one is distinct and distinct in its own way from the others. Though many of them have adapted to new technologies, materials, and sensitivities, they have retained their beauty and ethos. The following are some of India's most popular and thriving folk arts that have withstood the test of time quite well.
This art form, also known as Tanjore paintings, originated in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in the city of Thanjavur. These are among the greatest traditional art forms recognised worldwide. They are essentially religious paintings with a royal heritage.
Thanjavur art exemplifies spirituality, with its subject matter largely centred on Hindu mythological themes, the most popular being figures of Lord Krishna in various poses and depictions of his life. These paintings, distinguished by their signature gold leaf work, brilliant colour schemes, precious stones, and cut glass jewellery, once adorned the royal dwellings of the rulers of Vijayanagar Rayas and Thanjavur Nayaks in the 16th century, but can now be found in almost every Indian household.
They were originally adorned with rubies, diamonds, and precious gemstones, but semi-precious stones have taken their place, with the practise of gleaning gold foil remaining unchanged.
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Gond paintings have a long tradition in India, dating back to the pre-Aryan period. These paintings, inspired by the life and culture of the Gond tribes, depict natural elements such as rivers, mountains, hills, streams, and forests. Traditionally, these paintings were created on the walls, ceilings, and floors of homes during traditional customs and festivals using a series of dots and dashes beautifully arranged into patterns and delicate compositions.
Painting in Madhubani
Madhubani paintings, also known as Mithila art, are thought to be as old as the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is said to have originated in the kingdom of Janaka, Sita's father, in the Mithila region of Bihar.
This art form, distinguished by geometric patterns, primarily depicts gods, wedding scenes, religious ceremonies, flora, and fauna. Women commonly use these paintings to foster their spirituality and desire to be one with the divine.
Traditionally created on freshly plastered mud walls with mineral pigments prepared by the artists. These paintings are now created for commercial purposes on paper, cloth, canvas, and other media.
Warli painting, one of the oldest Indian traditional art forms, originated in the tribal region on the northern outskirts of Mumbai in Western India. Despite its proximity to one of India's largest metropolitan cities, this art form avoids all urbanisation influences.
Warli tribal art is simple in appearance and uses geometric structures such as circles, triangles, and squares to represent the Warli tribe's daily lives and social events. Though it resembles Madhubani paintings, the use of a red ochre or dark background and shapes in white distinguishes it from others.
These geometric paintings are reminiscent of prehistoric cave paintings and were traditionally created in Warlis homes to invoke the gods. They have served as a means of transmitting stories and traditions to a population that was not familiar with the written word over time. Warli paintings on paper and textiles are now very popular all over the world.
Pattacchitra, which originated in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, is one of the oldest and most admired art forms. It is essentially a canvas painting, as its name is a combination of the Sanskrit words patta, which means canvas, and chitra, which means picture.
Pattachitra's compositions, also known as religious paintings, depict Lord Vishnu's ten avatars, the Krishna Lila, and Lord Ganesha as a five-headed deity. Pattachitra, like other Indian traditional paintings, uses all-natural paints, cloth canvas, and materials prepared by the artists (chitrakars) themselves.
Pattachitra paintings are now created in a variety of media, including tussar silk and palm leaves, and artists also create decorative wall hangings and showpieces.
Though local to a specific geography, traditional art forms of India have gradually gained importance not only in the country of their origin, but around the world. These Indian traditional paintings, which have been shown to be important for cultural preservation, are an artistic window into understanding ancient culture and an excellent tool for learning about the past.