In being the land of a wide many cultures and traditions, of tribes and races and of diversity and uniqueness, India also is home to a repertoire of creative arts. Steeped in history, rich in legacy and significant in their continuing presence into the modern times are the many tribal art forms of India that lend a unique identity to the country as a melting point of folk influences and indigenous traditions. In their immensely packed heritage status and intricate exploration of an ancient lineage, arts have in fact been the definer of a large number of Indian tribes. Here’s listing the various forms of tribal art of India we must explore to discover our country enriched with all the emotions associated with these modes of expression-
Perhaps the most popular form when it comes to exploring the many arts of India is the Madhubani style. Native to the Mithila region of Bihar and therefore also popular as Mithila paintings, this form of art employs exclusively natural means to draw out exemplary designs. Vibrant and fuller in its evocation of nature and her many elements, this striking form of art also comes with ritual content designed for specific religious or auspicious occasions.
An art of cloth printing practiced in the Kutch District of Gujarat, Rogan painting makes use of such paint made from boiled oil and vegetable dyes to eke out prints on fabric. Originating among the Khatris, Rogan used to be largely a seasonal art before it attained its present status as an exotic and expensive art form. Even in its current sparse practise, the art form persists as one of the myriad tribal uniqueties indigenous to India.
Kavad or Kawad Art
Tracing its origins in the motley of rich colors that Rajasthan is famous for is the tribal art form of Kawad in India. With a legacy that spans some 500 years in the past, Kawad is one of the most peculiar yet most impressive of the traditional arts that can entice one and all with its unique scheme of storytelling.
Essentially a three dimensional wooden box that sees the story unfolding in its layers and layers of pictures, Kawad is almost akin to a portable temple. As an art form, Kawad might be enriching. As the temple itself, Kawad however is more than just the intricacies that make it so delightful a tale to explore. With episodes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other folktales making their way into the confines of the temples that comes complete with even a sanctum sanctorum, there’s no denying the creativity that went into making this delightful art form such a unique experience. In its most distinctive, most appealing essence yet, Kawad is easily one of the finest tribal art forms India can take pride in.
Saura tribal painting is an art form stemming from the Sauda tribals of the state of Odisha in India. Religiously significant to the natives, this style known also as ikons or ekons bear visual resemblance to the art form of the Warlis. Drawing similarly upon tribal folklore, these images also happen to be rather prominent notations of the cultural identity of the Saudas. In their diversity and uniqueness, Saura paintings tend to be striking forms of art that are captivating not just in their stellar importance but also in the visual dynamics of it all.
The art form stemming from one of the largest tribal presences in India, the Gonds is the Gond art form of Madhya Pradesh. With folk tales and culture finding representation in the art form, storytelling essentially characterise Gond art. With an intricate series of dots, dashes and lines striving to shape up this exquisite work of art, Gond artistic visuals present themselves as still images with a sense of movement. Natural elements, mythological references and legends find expression in this varied art form that which employs striking colors for painting a vivid imagery.
A ritual art form of Kerala, Kalamezhuthu is distinctive in being yet another of the temple arts. In its visual representation of presiding deities in temples and sacred groves of the state with colored powder, Kalamezhuthu or Kalam is essentially similar to what we Indians empirically indulge in as rangoli or alpana. However this particular form stemming from God’s own country is somewhat different in that when combined with the singing of specific songs (kalampaattu) and dance movements related to the puja (kalapradakshinam), it becomes a ritualistic performance known as ‘kalamezhuthum paattum’ or ‘kalamezhuthupaattu’.
A style of tribal art hailing from the state of Maharashtra in India, Warli paintings have a rather ancient lineage, dating back to the 10th century A.D. With nature again as the focal medium of expression, Warli art basically found prominence as wall paintings. On a traditional red ochre background of the walls, the Warli art stand out in its distinctive white patterns that which has now been registered with its own Geographical Indication.
An indigenous painting style from the royal land of Rajasthan, Phad is a religious form of scroll painting that depicts folk deities. Traditionally drawn out on a long piece of cloth or canvas called phad that which lend the art its name, this art presents itself as a vibrant visual that which conveniently doubles as mobile temples of the depicted deities. Religiously and culturally significant, this ancient art form is quite detailed in its vivid imagery and presentation.
Popular as the scroll paintings of Jharkhand, Paitkar Paintings are a form of tribal art of India that has long been the basis of storytelling performances and socio-religious customs. Almost a variation of pattachitra, Paitkar paintings have come to be associated mostly with the Hindu epics even as matters like death also find significant expression in their realm.
As an art form that essentially finds expression in fabric painting, kalamkari is one of the highly popular styles from India. In stemming from the craftsmanship exerted through kalams, this ubiquitous art form finds expression most significantly on sarees, even when it was born out of an art of story-telling. With depictions that embrace episodes of Hindu mythology and iconography with perceivable Persian influence in motifs and design, Kalamkar indeed is a confluence of the arts themselves. An exerting art form however that sees completion after a meticulous 23 steps, Kalamkari stems as an intensely beautiful portrayal of stories, even when it happens to be detailed and complicated all the same. A 3000 year old art form that developed in the regions of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Kalamkari is sone of India’s most popular art forms.
Among the most popular of art forms stemming from Odisha, Pattachitra or cloth painting is in fact an intricate style of scroll painting. Mythological and religious in its bearing, the paintings are a mix of folk and classical elements not just in Odisha but also in West Bengal where it is also as distinctive an art form. With separate Geographical Indication statuses earmarking the uniqueness of both the art forms, Pattachitra might be the only tribal art native to two different regions within India.
Distinctive in being a tribal art form that makes uses of dots to bring to life a depiction of the Bhil tribe, Bhil art is one among the more prominent visual treasures of India. Equallty characteristic is the use of earthy yet vibrant tones in this art form that are born out of an ancient connection with nature. Ritualistic yet commonplace in equal measure, authentic Bhil art is a sight for the eyes what with the myriad of dots growing themselves into a set pattern so un-lifelike yet so commonly real.
A cultural and historical legacy of the Santhal tribe of West Bengal are the Santhal paintings. As one of the tribal art forms characterising India in all its diversity, Santhal paintings are prominently artistic as well in all their multi color vibrance. Simple even in its many real images that span out across a range of less realistic presentation, Santhal paintings are basically celebratory or ritualistic with no strict adherence to norms. In their fluid versatility, Santhal Paintinf=gs form an important part of the forever evolving cultural heritage of India.
A tribal art native to Gujarat in India, Pithora paintings are however more ritualistic in essence than what their visual appeal supposes them to be of. The Rathwa and Bhilala tribes are the people behind this art form which also interprets very effectively as a means of worship. Even the painting process is utterly ritualistic, with a central wall and the two adjoining ones serving as the canvas. But in spite of how modern day dictums see this form of expression as a type of painting, for the Rathwas it remains more a mode of expression and hence a marker of their identity.
Eponymous to the region of its origin, Bengal Pat is one of the old, traditional styles of painting prevalent in India. But in its diversive manifestation and interesting interpretation, this art form establishes itself as truly different from the rest. Perhaps among the rare forms of traditional art that uses creativity as a medium to bring to light prevalent regressions characterising the society, Bengal Pat has an appeal and identity of its own.
Sohrai Khovar Painting
Another of the tribal art forms of India that reside in a Geographical Indication identity of their own is Jharkhand’s Sohrai Khavar painting. A traditional and ritualistic mural art that features a series of lines and dots shaping up natural elements with also religious inferences, natural ochre colors further do up the innate appeal of these arts that are striking already in their intricate designs and naive but impressive combination of colored motifs. With natural ingredients such as different shades of clay and charcoal shaping up the distinct visual sensibilities of these paintings, this is yet another art form that remains rooted in the deepest connect with nature.
One of the many art forms of India that is historically significant, Manjusha art form originated in Angpradesh which is now present day Bihar. Believed to be the only art form of India that manifests itself in a sequential representation of a story, this tribal art is also called a scroll painting. With roots tracing back to the 7th century, this art form is now attempted to be revived as Bhagalpur folk art where it is characteristic of the Bishahari Puja. With swirling snakes very prominent features defining this art form, this also very religiously significant art is almost at par with the more popular Madhubani form.