India, a land of mystery, has engulfed itself in art from its very inception. Vibrant colors, shapes and unique designs uncover its myriad stories and superstitions while giving praise to its million gods and warriors. Being a country with such a rich and diverse culture India has a ton of authentic art forms true to its nature.
This article describes four of the magnificent ancient art forms that are major contributors to India's mesmerizing heritage and need to be passed on to generations of Indians to come.
1. WARLI ART
Warli art is the oldest known traditional Indian tribal art form that was created by the Warli tribe that resided in the north Sahyadri Range in the 2000-3500 BC. This art form is unique yet simple with the use of just three shapes inspired by the tribes interactions with nature. The Circle was inspired by the moon and the sun, the triangle was inspired by the mountains and pointed trees in the region and the square was inspired by the shape of the tribes sacred enclosure. This art form has ritualistic roots and was predominantly created to worship Palaghata, the fertility God, with the hope that the tribe would grow and thrive for generations. Walls of clay huts were covered with brick, earth and branches to give it a red Ochre color which became the canvas for the painting. Paintbrushes were made by chewing the end of a bamboo stick and white pigment from rice paste was used as paint to create the painting.
It is a wonder that even though the Warli Tribe resides just a few kilometers away from Mumbai, one of India's largest city, it still remains completely authentic!
2. PHAD ART
Phad art form is a unique art form that originated in the Joshi family of the Shahpura region of Rajasthan 700 years ago. This art form was exclusively created by members of the Joshi family who were very particular about its exclusivity. So much so that the daughters of the family were not taught the art while the daughter in laws were empowered to learn the same. This art form was created specially for the Bhopas, the priest singers, who used the pictorial depictions on the scrolls to perform stories of the local deities, warriors and great rulers of the time. The scrolls are made by applying natural pigments mixed with gum and water, with a paintbrush, on a handwoven coarse cloth that was soaked overnight. The Joshi family was so superstitious that they believed the first brush stroke needed to be done by a Virgin girl of the family to ensure that the painting was a masterpiece.
3. LIPPAN ART
The credit for the origin of this brilliant geometrically enriched art form goes to the pastoral community of Rabari located in the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat. Lippan art is characterized by the portrayal of motifs inspired by rich and famous embroidery patterns on the the clay and dung plastered walls of their circular thatched huts known at Bhungas. The white salt rich marshland
soil is painted over the walls before round, diamond or triangular mirrors known as Aabhlas are pasted on it.
It is remarkable how this beautiful art work on the exterior insulates the house by reflecting heat.
Oh and lets take a minute to marvel at the fact that due to the magnificent artwork indoors a single lamp is sufficient to light the entire house!
4. THANJAVUR ART
Originated in the 16th century during the Nayak and Maratha periods in Tamil Nadu, this art form was practiced by the wealthy Rajus of Thanjavur and Naidus of Madurai to celebrate their religious dieties and saints. The canvas was prepared by sticking a cloth over a jackfruit wooden plank. Vegetable dyes were used with specific colours to depict the well rounded bodies and almond shaped eyes that were distinct of the style. Traditionally, red colour was used for the background and dark brown for the outlines. Lord Vishnu was depicted in Blue, Lord Nataraja in white and the goddesses in yellow. Reflective of the wealthiness of the communities that created this art form, expensive gold leaves and gemstones were used to dress up the Gods and Goddesses.