5 Things You Need to Know About the Warli Art Cult

Warli paintings are narrative paintings, and the themes showcase the social lifestyle and day-to-day activities like fishing, hunting, farming, forest activities, and village life. These paintings are believed to be one of the oldest forms of art in history. This form of Indian Tribal Art owes its origin to the state of Maharashtra in India.

In this article, we're explaining 5 things you need to know about the exciting Warli art culture of India!


1. What is Warli Art?

Unlike Madhubani, Warli Art mostly focuses on nature and elements associated with nature. The paintings depict the Indian Folk Art followed by the Tribal community, who have a lot of belief and respect for Mother Earth, Wildlife, and Nature. Originally, these Indian paintings were found on the walls of the caves in dense forests where the tribal and nomads used to reside. These art paintings were first discovered in the Sahyadri Hills Range of the Western Ghats in India, which is believed to the birthplace of this Indian Folk Art.

The intricate geometric figures of wedding rituals, flowers, hunting scenes, and other everyday activities are quite famous among fashion designers and home décor brands. Those from the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat surely have a sense of sentiment attached to this Indian art form as they have seen it on the walls of rural schools and homes way before they became famous on modern lifestyle products. The simple, yet beautifully delicate patterns have a specific raw appeal about them.


2. Content in Warli Paintings

Content in Warli Paintings

The Warli painting unlike many other Indian art forms does not always depict gods, goddesses, or spiritual activities. Instead, they are characterized by the depiction of social activities of its painters, lifestyle, occupation, and deep respect and love for nature. Everyday activities like drawing water from the well, hunting, fishing, or dancing to the tunes of Tarpa are depicted with ease in the Warli paintings. Tarpa, is a trumpet-like instrument played in turns, often featured at the center of the paintings, around whom entwined men and women move in a circle. This is believed to resemble the circle of life. However, their huge love for nature and all things natural can be seen through the birds, tree motifs, and flowers that find a place in many of the paintings. Another repeating element is the mother goddess signifying fertility which is placed within the square called the ‘chalk’ or ‘Shaukat’ as a central motif surrounded by natural objects or dance and festival celebrations.


3. How is Warli Art done?

This art form requires both special skills and a mix. First, the area where the art needs to be done is coated with a mix. This mix usually consists of cow dung, clay, and water. It is combined thoroughly and using a cloth, the surface is coated with this mix. After it dries up, 2 or 3 more coats of the mix are applied to the surface to give it a brighter appearance. It is allowed to dry completely and form a canvas base for the art.

To make the drawings, rice powder is used. Although, it may sound strange, the secret behind this art is this particular rice powder. Rice is soaked in water for the entire night and then a thick paste is made out of it using pestle and mortar. While many tribal people use their fingers to draw the art form, bamboo sticks are also being used these days. The tribals chew one end of the stick and that acts as a painting brush. The brush is dipped into the rice paste and then drawings are made on the walls. The color combination is ideal and the white paintings on the brown clay surface look both beautiful and vibrant. The procedure for painting is definitely unusual but the outcome is unique.

Traditionally drawn on the walls of huts, Warli paintings are characterized by a typical brown or red ochre background, which is often a mixture of cow dung and mud. Using a bamboo stick chewed at the end to make a thin paintbrush, these Indian paintings are created using a white pigment made of gum and rice. In the dim houses of the Warli tribespeople, the rice pigment appears to gleam, almost giving the paintings an otherworldly feel.

Many of you might wonder why the fuss about an art form that restricts itself to two colors. But this classic simplicity is what makes this art form stand out from the clutter.


4. Shapes and Figures

Warli Shapes and Figures

Geometrical figures play a vital role in Warli paintings. Circles represent the moon and sun, while triangles and squares represent trees, mountains, and humans. The body of women, men, and animals is represented by two triangles joined at the tip, carefully placed, believed to symbolize the universe's balance. These Warli Artists put in their heart and soul into these stunning Indian Art Forms, using them as a mode of expression, and a medium to pass down tribal culture and history across generations.

The pictorial area is divided diagonally, horizontally, or vertically. The landscapes are demarcated well within an enclosure, and all the characters have equal visibility within their specific spaces. One characteristic Wari theme is the spiral formations of women and men depicted in a Concentric circular design. This is symbolic of their Tarpa dance, in which life is represented by unending circles, without a beginning or end. One can observe these circles that are depicted in paintings done for all occasions, birth, marriage, death.


5. Modern Practice of Warli Art Form

This Indian folk art went unnoticed in the 1970s. However, in the late 70s it gained recognition by a father-son duo named Jivya Soma and Balu Mashe, they began painting this art on paper and canvas. Their motive was not religious, it is because of their initiative to regain India’s lost art culture, Jivya Soma was named as the father of Warli painting.

These days we see that the Warli style of art has become famous in many areas like home decorations and textile. You can easily find fabrics printed with Warli style characters and objects. Hence, the art culture which was losing its value suddenly gained recognition and momentum and is much appreciated by the modern youth.

A visual narration of the rich legacy of one of India’s most ancient times, Warli art forms speaks to us of the significance of man’s relationship with nature and his community. It captures the very ethos of India’s indigenous ancestors and introduces to the forefront a true reflection of India’s rich heritage. Warli paintings are a source of knowledge as they benefit to understand the traditional and tribal lifestyle. It is an altogether different art form and hence the need to preserve it is the call of the hour. Numerous initiatives have been taken and currently it is being registered under the Intellectual Property Rights Act. It can be rightly said that this Indian Art Form is an asset in the world of art.


Are you a Warli art form enthusiast? Do you have Warli Paintings that you want to showcase to the people around you? Then please consider sharing your experience in the comments below! 

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