India is a melting pot of various cultures and a variety of folk and tribal art. The lineage for these tribal and folk art can be traced back thousands of years and can be found deep-rooted in remote tribes and villages. One such painting has its roots in a tribal community called the Gond community of India. Gond art gets its name from the tribe where it originates from. Rooftop takes an opportunity to take you on a guided tour of The Gond Painting.

Image Credits: Jangarh Singh Shyam – Saffron Art

Gond Art: History & Origin

The word ‘Gond’ comes from the Dravidian Expression ‘Kond’ which means ‘green mountains’. One of the largest tribal communities of India, Gond, practises this art form. The Gond community emerges from the Heart of Incredible India, Madhya Pradesh and they are also found in certain patches of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The lineage of Gond art is approximately 1400 years old. Locating its origins in the Mesolithic Period, Gond art is one of the many legacies of our country. ‘Gond’ or ‘Pardhan Art’ or ‘Jangarh kalam’ is a blend of patterns, textures and vivid colours which mix well with a hint of humour and their love for nature.

Salient Features of Gond Art

Gond artists depict their wild imagination by primarily using rich colours like yellow, orange, blue, green, and red. Carefully drawn lines and patterns bring the rest of the drawing to life. Gond art, initially, was an ode to the “Dharti Mata” or the mother Earth before sowing seeds. It is also a form of gratitude to Nature for being so kind and fertile. The birds, trees, animals, and other various natural elements show the relationship of man with nature and represent life in its numerous forms. 
Although this art is centuries old it has witnessed various transitions over the long passage of time. Gradually shifting from the walls of their houses to textiles and now canvas and paper, it has rendered inspiration from their legends and Indian folklore.

Themes of Gond Art

Do you wonder why most of the Gond Art revolves around nature-based themes? It is because the Gonds believe that spirits reside in every element of nature. Illustrating these sentient beings is a form of worship true to their sacred value. These paintings depict the deep connection between the tribe and the spirits of nature. They represent the contemporary or modern life of people, detailed narratives showcase a variety of emotions, dreams, and imaginative theories. 

One of the key motifs in their drawings that represent the root of their folklore is the Mahua Tree. This tree not only symbolises Life but also illustrates that its fruits, flowers, seeds, and leaves too aid their livelihood. Paintings also picturise the local deities like Phulvari Devi, Jalharin Devi, and Marathi Devi.

Image credits: India Heritage Walks

Gonds art journey to the world’s top museums

Jangarh Singh Shyam, a world-famous Gond artist, used to draw on the walls of tribal huts. But his unwavering dedication to the heritage of Gond Art encouraged him to display this art in prestigious museums. Today, his family preserves his legacy.

Jangarh was a 17-year-old Gond Pradhan when he first drew an image of Lord Hanuman with lime chalk and charcoal by hand on the humble red mud walls of a small hut in a tiny village of Patangarh, in the Dindori District of Madhya Pradesh. Jagdish Swaminath, a well-known artist, was skimming through artworks to display in a multi-purpose art centre, Bharat Bhavan when he came across the painting of Lord Hanuman on the walls of a tribal home. It was he who discovered the pure and unadulterated talent of Jangarh Shyam.

Jangarh wrote a new chapter in the history of Indian tribal art. The galleries of Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the United States of America displayed Jangarh’s artworks.

Image Credits: The Indian Craft House

Gond Art and Modern India

Today, Gond artists use poster colours and commercial paints to apply their talent to create the best depictions of their imagination. Gond paintings are vibrant which makes them the supreme choice for art enthusiasts. Bharat Bhavan, in Bhopal, has mesmerising Gond portrayals. If you want to experience a more authentic touch, take a tour of Patangarh, a village in Madhya Pradesh to witness the masterpieces painted by the Gond Community.

Rooftop is taking various steps to serve as a platform for Gond Art. We host workshops and bring the world a little closer to Gond artists. In one of our workshops, Aatmaram Shyam, a Gond artist shared his journey and explained the art form in dept.

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