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Probing the Tribal and Folk craft in India through the eyes of the past

India is often the most sang about when it comes to art and architecture. While the history of Indian art spans many decades, it all originated with the tribal and folk art of our ancestors. The art by tribes who existed long before us is one of the most vibrant and significant forms of art in India. The art that belonged to this time period is known to have great symbolism. Due to the vast number of tribes that existed in India, there are many variations of tribal and folk art that have been uncovered. Here are some of the most popular forms of tribal and folk art that have been recorded: 

Warli Folk Paintings

Warli paintings are known to have originated in the state of Maharashtra. They are popularly known for their elemental wall paintings. It is an exemplary example of folk paintings that existed in ancient Indian traditions. These wall paintings used simple geometrical shapes such as squares, circles and triangles to create images and pictorial representations. These drawings/paintings were usually engraved in white with a bamboo brush. These paintings commonly portrayed the daily life occurrences of these tribes such as hunting, festivities, fishing, farming and other everyday activities. 

Tanjore Painting

Belonging to the small town of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, Tanjore painting is a form of tribal art that honours this area’s prolific artist traditions. It is categorised as a classical South-Indian painting style that commonly uses vibrant colour palettes and materials such as glass, stone and gold foil. The illustrations of Hindu Gods and Goddesses are extremely common in Tanjore paintings.

Madhubani Art

This art form was originally created by the women belonging to Mithila, therefore, it is also known as Mithila art. It is believed to have originated in Bihar. It was created on mud walls, which usually signifies natural or religious intentions. It showcases images of Shiva, Krishna, Saraswati, Rama, Durga, Sun, Moon, trees, flowers, animals, wedding scenes and more.

Pattachitra Paintings

Originating in Odisha and West Bengal, Pattachitra paintings are cloth-based paintings that depict Gods and Goddesses in their work. It is one of the oldest forms of art in India. They were commonly used in ancient India to tell stories about religion and life. The common motifs of this form are fine lines, bold colours and borders with floral patterns. 

Kalamezhuthu Paintings

Originating from God’s own country - Kerala, Kalamezhuthu is a form of ritualistic arts. It is usually done on the floor during festivals or special occasions. At first, the deities are drawn, after which they are worshipped, and songs of praise and performances are offered to them, during which these drawings are erased with ritual steps. 

Kawad Art

This form of art originated in Rajasthan. It is practised by the Jangid Brahmins of Chittorgarh. It includes a three-dimensional box that has numerous panels that can be unfolded with paintings of Gods and Goddesses. These panels portrayed the tales of epics such as the Ramayanas, Puranas, the Bhagavad Gita and many more. 


Q1.  What is the role of Indian folk art today? 

It has served as a tool that can be passed down from generation to generation to educate the new generations about ancient traditions, beliefs and attitudes, thereby keeping old traditions and ideologies alive. 

Q2. What is at the core of all forms of Indian tribal art? 

Playfulness is at the core of all Indian tribal art. This art form rarely ever assumes a serious or pretentious tone. Stories about daily life occurrences are told in a relaxed and open manner.