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Wildlife in Indian Folk Art


Indian folk and tribal art is a reflection of the country’s extensive and varied cultural past. The inclusion of wildlife motifs is one of these art genres’ most notable characteristics. Elephants, tigers, snakes, and birds are just a few of the motifs that have been a part of Indian folk and tribal art for ages. These animal motifs are frequently linked to certain deities and mythologies and act as emblems of strength, fertility, and protection. For instance, the elephant is frequently regarded as a symbol of stability and strength and is connected to the Hindu god Ganesha, who is the god of learning and fresh beginnings. The Hindu god Vishnu, who stands for preservation and protection, is linked to the snake, which is considered as a symbol of rejuvenation.

Indian Folk Art
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Folk Depictions in Indian Art

It is not unusual to see these tales depicted in Indian folk, modern, and contemporary art. That’s because Indian folklore plays an integral part in making the cultural identity of India. Indian Folk Art is a fascinating study of many Indian cultures and representation of their folklores because it is older than Indian Modern Art. Many artists who belonged to the Bengal School of Thought adopted these subjects and painted scenes from Indian mythology and epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata since folklore was connected to the Indian identity. Indian folk art depicts the worship of deities, goddesses, and strong spirits. These ancient crafts, which have been handed down for countless generations, bring the romance and mysticism of India to life.

Besides them and Raja Ravi Verma, a few other painters are renowned for using legendary figures as subjects for their paintings. Artist Laxman Pai shows his perspective of the Epic through his paintings of from each section of the Epic Ramayana. Some of his paintings portray narratives based on other shorter episodes, while other paintings narrate a full Khand (portion) of the story in a single picture. Scenes from the Epic Mahabharata have been shown in several of the works of artist Ganesh Pyne. He recalls his grandmother telling him these myths because he was raised in a religious environment. Later, he used them in the vast majority of his works.

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Wildlife in Various Indian Folk Art Forms

The tight connection between tribal societies and nature is frequently reflected in tribal art through the use of animal motifs. For many tribes, hunting and gathering provided the majority of their food, and their art expresses their profound reverence for the creatures they hunted and the surroundings they lived in. These themes are defined by their bold, simplistic lines and stylized forms, and they are frequently depicted in vivid, bright hues.

Wildlife in Pattachitra Paintings

Pattachitra is a type of traditional cloth-based scroll painting that originated in Bangladesh and the eastern Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha. The Pattachitra art form is renowned for its fine details and the mythical folklore that is engraved in them.

Arjuna is seen in front of Vishnu in the nava-gunjara painting in the combined form of nine different animals. He asks Krishna for a glimpse of his true form in their conversation as narrated in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna is given this vision by Krishna in which he sees the cosmos contained inside Krishna. Krishna’s magnificent form is known as virat-rupa (omnipresent or vast form).

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Wildlife in Warli Art

The Warli art of Maharashtra is among the most well-known tribal arts with wildlife motifs. Warli art is primarily made on the walls of homes. A mixture of rice paste and water is used as paints. The art form is distinguished by the use of simple shapes and bold lines. Symbolizing the connection between the tribal society and nature, Warli paintings frequently include wildlife images like tigers, deer, and birds.

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Wildlife in Madhubani Paintings

A major motif in Madhubani paintings is the fish. It is both a sacred and everyday symbol. As per the Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu once takes the form of a fish to uphold global order. Fish are abundant in Madhubani’s numerous little ponds, which is why the animal has also come to represent fertility. Along with depictions of the royal court and public occasions like weddings, natural objects like the sun, moon, and religious plants like tulsi are also frequently painted. Typically, there is never a blank spot in these paintings. Instead, the spaces are filled with depictions of flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric patterns.

Indian Folk art - Madhubani Painting
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Wildlife in Bhil Art

The Bhils, who live in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc., are among the oldest tribal groups in India. The Bhil community has a close relationship with nature, which is reflected in both their daily lives and their art. Bhil art frequently also serves ceremonial purposes. Every piece of art depicts people, animals, insects, deities, and celebrations that have a story to convey about the area. Even the Sun and Moon frequently make an appearance in the legends. As births and deaths are recorded, Bhil paintings also tell tales of tradition and folklore. Religious observances are also remembered. 

Wildlife in Bhil Painting
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In terms of mythological representations, various “folktales”, have been passed down through the ages to the current generation. For thousands of years, these folktales circulated and changed throughout the various civilizations of India, becoming a part of our cultural identity as Indians. The epics Ramayana and Mahabharata have inspired a variety of interpretations and adaptations and continue to play a key role to the current day as well. Moreover, the use of wildlife motifs in Indian folk and tribal art celebrates nature and the deep connection that tribes have with their surroundings. These symbols have great cultural importance and tell the tale of the communities who started them. Additionally these wildlife motifs look aesthetically attractive in the paintings. Indian folk and tribal art can enthral and inspire you whether you enjoy art or just admire the beauty of nature.

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