Indian Folk Art

Varied cultures and traditions can be seen through out the Indian sub-continent, these cultures and traditions gave birth to many folk painting and art styles which have been passed on from generation to generation. The earliest form of painting can be seen in Bhimbetka rock shelter which dates to 10,000 BC and paintings at Ajanta and Ellora extending as late as the 10th – 12th century BC.

Some folk-art forms have evolved over the years and have been influenced by other modern forms of art, but some remain untouched by modernisation. The colours used for these painting are natural dyes made of leaves, charcoal, mud, flowers etc. 

  • Miniature painting is one the folk-art forms found even today. This style of painting originated during the Mughal era, around 16th century with paintings influenced by Persian styles. This form of art flourished under Akbar and Shah Jahan’s rule. Though miniature in size these paintings have intricate details. These artist in their paintings bought out the royal lifestyles of the Mughals. Miniature paintings produced by Indians in their own style is known as Rajasthani or Rajput miniature painting. During this time, several schools of art evolved such as Mewar, Marwar, Jaipur, Bikaner etc.

These paintings have humans with large eyes, pointed nose and slim waist and men are always seen with turban. Now commercialised poster colours have replaced natural dyes and paintings are done on silk, ivory, cotton and paper to be sold.

  • Madhubani painting also known as Mithila art originated in the kingdom of Janaka in Nepal and parts of present-day Bihar. It is one of the most popular forms of folk-art. It contains of brightly coloured geometric patterns and most of Madhubani paintings and wall murals depict gods, flora and fauna.

In the past this form of painting was done only by women but now even men take part in it to meet the demand of the people. Initially it was done on mud walls with mineral pigments but now due to commercialisation paper, cloth, canvas etc.  To create a source of non-agriculture income the All India Handicrafts Board and the Government of India have been encouraging women artists to produce these art works for commercial purpose.

  • Kalamkari is of two types – Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti which originate from Machilipatnam and Chitoor of Andhra Pradesh, respectively. While Machilipatnam refers to block printed form of art the latter is more of a free-flowing art. Kalamkari is now popularly seen on sarees and ethnic clothing and depicts flora, fauna or characters from epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana.
  • Warli is of tribal origin. It originated in the western ghats of India (Maharashtra and Gujrat) where the Warli tribes resides. It is one of the oldest artforms in India dating back to 2500 BCE. In Warli paintings it rare to see a straight line, they mainly comprise of circles, triangles, dots and other shapes depicting daily life activities such as hunting, fishing, dancing etc. done on mud walls.

These painting were historically made by married women to celebrate a wedding. In Warli painting a human is drawn with a circle and two triangles. Almost all paintings are done on red ochre or dark background with the shapes in white colour. The white paint was derived from natural material like rice paste, water and gum. Today like most of the other folk art this too has gained commercial importance and are done on paper, cloth and canvas to be sold.

These are just some of the many wonderful, vibrant and expressive art forms seen in India which have stood the test of time.