Gond Paintings - A Mystic world created by Dots and Lines

Clicked at Haat Festival Pune 2015 by S Nayyar
  • This article is a brief introduction to Gond Art, its origins - painting process and prominent colours.  

Gond is a form of Indian folk and tribal art named after the largest tribe of central India with the same name. The word Gond is a derivation of the konda word meaning green hill which consists of parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Orissa.


The word Gond comes from the Dravidian expression kond, meaning green mountain .The Gonds were the ruling class in many parts of Central India in the 14th century. Gond rajas, or kings, ruled until they were conquered by Muslim armies and were forced to flee into the thick jungles.


In the Gond belief system, besides Bara Deo (Great God), every hill, river, lake, tree, and rock is inhabited by a spirit and therefore sacred. Like most tribals, the Gonds are artistically gifted: they paint their house walls with artistic designs. Both male and female family members participate in painting.


Gond paintings are done on village mud walls using colors derived from charcoal, colored soil, plant sap, leaves, and cow dung and can last up to 20 years. These paintings are found in the inner and outer walls of the houses, windows and niches. Gond paintings reflect man’s relationship with Nature. 


In Gond art, horses, stags, tigers, birds, gods and people are painted in several bright colours and filled with dots, lines or other geometrical patterns to give it a texture. This style of painting has been called by various names: Jangarh Kalam, Pardhaan painting, Gond painting, etc.


Painting Process


Gond paintings are fascinating, where the artists express their faiths and beliefs, world view, their visual expression and sense of identity, both as a collective, and as individuals. Gond paintings are based basically on line work. The artists draw the inner and outer lines with utmost care that are so striking in their precision and perfection. The imaginative use of the line imparts a sense of movement of still images. The colours are mainly black and white, red, blue and yellow.


The motifs are further associated with the rich repertoire of the community and strongly show the interactions with the cosmic, natural and social worlds of humans at multiple levels and contexts. Local deities, cock fights, forest scenes, agriculture, marriages and other rituals find a place in these paintings. Gond artists paint their lives vividly, drawing from their heritage which gives them a rich canvas.

The inspiration behind Gond art is almost always nature and social customs represented through a repetitive patterning of dots and dashes. Each artist uses this patterning to create his or her own signature style while choosing colour schemes and subjects that are indicative of the communities they represent.

Gond Painting. 

Prominent colours


Deep red - derived from Al tree, Yellow - from Chui mitti (Local Sand), Brown - from Gheru mitti (Another type of Sand), Green - from leaves, and Red - from hibiscus flower


Originally, natural colours were used for painting. Nowadays because of non-availability of natural colours and the easy availability of alternative colours, the artists have begun to utilize poster colours in their work. Black and white colours were not generally used, but now they are also being used.


The Gonds traditionally painted on mud walls of their houses. Starting in the early 1980s, certain talented Pardhan Gonds who traditionally serve as professional bardic priests began transforming their ritual performing arts into a new tradition of figurative and narrative visual art: using a variety of modern media (including acrylic paintings on canvas, ink drawings on paper, silkscreen prints, and animated film) they have created unprecedented depictions of their natural and mythological worlds, traditional songs and oral histories. Rich in detail, colour, mystery and humour, these tribal artworks brilliantly employ modern means to evoke the pre-modern psyche.


The Gond art rendezvous with the belief that "viewing a good image begets good luck". This inherent belief led the Gonds to decorating their houses and the floors with traditional tattoos and motifs. The Gond paintings also bear a resemblance to Australian aboriginal art.


Author Trishna Patnaik is a Fine Artist based in Mumbai.


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Also read

1. Pichwai Art

2. Warli Paintings

3. Bastar Craft and Culture

4. The Paintings of India

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