India is the land of intangible culture and heritage, and its art forms date back to the beginning of time. One such example is Warli painting, a world-renowned traditional art genre. Did you know Warli paintings are said to be one of the oldest styles of art in Indian history? India’s Northern Sahyadri Range is home to Warli Paintings. This widely practised tribal painting art form originated in Maharashtra.

It has an allure and appeals that no other art form has. The art makes use of a set of basic geometric shapes: a circle, a triangle, and a square. The word “Warli” was derived from “Waral,” which means ‘a small plot of land. The art that the tribe created showed their peace and conformity with nature.  Rooftop will explore the roots of the art form and how it has changed In today’s day and age.

Image credits: Exotic India (l); Alforja cat (r)

Features Of Warli Paintings

Warli art embraces nature and wildlife and illustrates the universe’s equilibrium. Paintings depict daily life events that happen amongst the tribe showing us figures like humans dancing with open-ended circles and spirals. Originally, Warli painting featured two colours earth brown and rice paste. Gradually through time, the background colours of Warli art have expanded to include henna, indigo, ochre, and black; earthy mud; and brick red. The artwork is two-dimensional and plain and linear, with a heavy emphasis on triangle forms. 

Themes Of Warli Painting

People from many walks of life inspire the themes. The painting’s most essential feature is that it doesn’t depict mythological characters or representations of deities. The tribesmen’s various Warli art styles portray the fundamental existence they lived. The categories of Warli paintings are:

  • The Gods – In this category, the historic legend of the Warli tribe influences the painting. Through this, the tribesmen display their faith in their past. 
  • The People – These Warli paintings reflect the positive and negative acts of the people. 
  • The Species – These Warli paintings depict various creatures found in the area. The tiger is a well-known animal in Warli painting. 
  • Rights and Rituals – Of all the genres, Warli paintings representing rights and rituals are the most prominent. This category portrays pleasure, joy, festivities, and everyday activities.

Warli After Modernisation And Its Significance

Jivya Soma Mashe warli painting
Image credit: Map Academy (l); Wikipedia (r)

Warli paintings have changed significantly over time. Traditionally, these exquisite artworks were created on mud walls by painting the figures on the wall using a combination of rice and water and using chewed bamboo sticks as paint brushes. Ordinary paints and paintbrushes, on the other hand, may now create the same end product. Initially, only Warli women known as Savasini made the Warli paintings. However, men began to paint the Warli paintings as well as women. According to legend, Warli women used to paint their walls at marriages to represent delight and festivities. According to legend, Warli women used to paint their walls at marriages to represent delight and festivities.

Coca-Cola India created Warli paintings to promote the old culture and portray a feeling of community. Jivya Soma Mashe and his son Balu Mashe took a radical turn when they started painting in the 1970s. The paintings are now sold for as high as 21,355 USD. He also received a Padma Shri Award in 2011 for his contribution to the art and for putting it on the map!

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