India is a land that is rife with culture and heritage, a lot of our traditional art forms go back thousands of years. One such art form among them is Warli painting, a world-renowned folk art practice. Did you know, Warli paintings are said to be one of the oldest styles of art in Indian history? India’s Northern Sahyadri Range in Maharashtra is the origin of Warli Paintings and this art is widely practised in the cities of Thane and Palghar districts, with Dahanu and Jawhar in particular.

No other art style equals Warli’s raw and enigmatic appeal. This art form utilises a set of basic geometric shapes: a circle, a triangle, and a square. The word ‘Warli’ is derived from ‘Waral’ which means a small plot of land. This art form practised by the Warli tribe speaks volumes about 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: Saffron Art

Features Of Warli Paintings

Wildlife, nature and daily life events are central themes in Warli paintings. They are portrayed by motifs of men and women dancing composed with open-ended circles and spirals. Originally, Warli paintings featured two colours i.e., muddy brown and white, obtained from rice paste. Gradually they incorporated more colours into the background. Some include henna, indigo, ochre, black, and brick red. The artwork is two-dimensional, plain and linear with a heavy emphasis on triangular forms. 

Image credit: Exoctic India

Themes Of Warli Painting

The people of Warli lead a very simple life, which inspires their themes. Warli painting’s most essential feature is that it does not depict any mythological characters or representations of epics. The commonly used motifs used in Warli paintings are of their deities (who influence their spiritual and religious beliefs), their community people, and the fauna but special mentions of the tiger are prominent in these paintings. And, communal festivities and celebrations are also favoured topics for them to create Warli paintings on.

Warli After Modernisation And Its Significance

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 paintbrushes. On the other hand, ordinary paints and paintbrushes may now create the same end product. The Warli paintings were originally only created by Savasini, the female member of the Warli tribe. Now, men have recently started to create Warli paintings as well. According to tradition, Warli women painted their walls during weddings to symbolise joy and festivity. Warli wall paintings are regarded as highly fortunate.

Coca-Cola India created Warli paintings to promote the 400-year-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, these 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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