Warli Painting and Madhubani Painting

The Warlis  or Varlis are an indigenous tribe or Adivasis,  living in mountainous and coastal areas of Maharashtra-Gujarat border  and surrounding areas. They have their own animistic beliefs, life,  customs and tradition. While there are no records of the exact origin of this  art, its roots may be traced to as early as the 10th century AD.
Warli paintings were mainly done by the women folk. The most  important aspect of the painting is that it does not depict mythological  characters or images of deities, but depicts social life. Pictures of human  beings and animals, along with scenes from daily life are created in a loose  rhythmic pattern.
Warli paintings are painted white on mud walls. The paintings are beautifully  executed and resemble pre-historic cave paintings in execution and usually  depict scenes of human figures engaged in activities like hunting, dancing,  sowing and harvesting.  

Difference  between other art forms and Warli

Warli Paintings are very different from  other folk and tribal paintings in India. Their themes are not mythological,  nor their colours as bright as the ones seen in Madhubani paintings. Neither do  they contain the robust sensuality of the paintings found in Eastern  India. Instead they are painted on mud, charcoal, cow dung based surface  using Natural Dyes in white with series of dots in red and yellow. Their  linear nature and monochromatic hues make them similar to pre-historic cave  paintings and Aboriginal Art in execution.

Content of Warli Art

Their extremely rudimentary wall  paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary: a circle, a triangle and a  square.  The circle drawn from nature represents the sun and the moon  while the triangle is derived from mountains and pointed trees. The square  indicates a sacred enclosure, the square, the “chauk”; for the Palaghata, the  mother goddess, symbolising fertility.

Scenes portraying hunting, fishing and  farming, festivals and dances, trees and animals surround the central motif in  these ritual paintings.

Human and animal bodies are represented  by two triangles joined at the tip, the upper triangle depicting the trunk and  the lower triangle the pelvis. Their precarious equilibrium symbolises the  balance of the universe, and of the couple, and has the practical and amusing  advantage of animating the bodies.

Marriage is the most recurring theme of  Warli paintings. Many Warli paintings depict - Marriage Theme Palghat, the  marriage god, accompanied by a horse and of course the bride and the groom.

Men and women dancing in circles (Tarapa  Dance), during various celebrations, is another theme typical to the Warli  Paintings. A musician playing a native instrument is usually found in the  middle of such spirals (Tarapa). Flora and fauna are also depicted in these  paintings. The cracked walls of the village have been adorned with these  paintings for centuries and even today they form the primary decoration of most  such houses.

Mithila  painting: Painting of Bihar

Madhubani painting or Mithila Painting is a style of Indian painting, practiced in the  Mithila region of Bihar. The  name Madhubani Painting is named after the village Madhubani. The Madhubani painting  or Mithila Painting originated at the time of the Ramayana, when King Janak  commissioned artists to do paintings at the time of marriage of his daughter  Sita, to Shri Ram.
Madhubani painting has been done traditionally by the women of villages around  the present town of Madhubani (the literal meaning of which is forests of  honey) and other areas of Mithila. The painting was traditionally done on  freshly plastered mud wall of huts, but now it is also done on cloth, hand-made  paper and canvas.  Prominent Colours: Pink, Green (Parrot), Red,  Firozi or Copper Blue, Sulphate Blue, Yellow, Dark Blue. Double Borders are Compulsory.  Black Outline is Compulsory.

Themes of Madhubani Painting

Madhubani painting mostly depicts nature and Hindu  devotional events, and the themes generally revolve around Hindu deities like  Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. Natural objects like the  sun, the moon, and plants that are worshipped like Tulsi are also widely  painted, alongside scenes from the royal courts and social events like  weddings. Generally no empty space is left; the gaps are filled by paintings of  flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric designs.

Categories of Madhubani Paintings:

Though  there were no class artists and most of the subjects were common, still based  on the preference of people from a particular caste, the different schools of  Madhubani paintings can be classified into three types:

The Kayastha Tradition- The unique feature of the Kayastha  tradition is the use of monochrome colour, combination, like black, red, green,  maroon etc. It was basically a practice of elaborate wall paintings of the  nuptial chamber, Kohbar Ghar with representations of the lotus, bamboo grove,  fish, birds and snakes in union, which largely symbolizes fertility and life.  Even when this style is conceived in paper, single colour line work defines the  Kayastha style of painting even today. 

The Brahmin Tradition-  Unlike  the Kayastha, the Brahmin style of painting lavishly deals with rich variety of  colours. Their easy access to Hindu sacred literature has helped them immensely  in portraying the rich Hindu iconography and tradition.

The Tattoo Tradition/ Goidana (locally called) - The Tattoo based paintings reflect the  primitive art and create its impact by a serial replication of the same image. The  lower section of the society, existing in maithil society at that particular  time, practiced this style of madhubani painting. The painting is originally in  the form of a line – drawings and is divided into several horizontal margins.  Considering its rich use of colour it is closer to the Brahmin school of  painting.
  All  these styles were traditionally done on the mud walls of Kohbar Ghar, Gosain  Ghar and the mud floors (Aripan). It used to be drawn on walls washed with clay  or often coated with a layer of cow-dung. Vegetable dyes, black soots,  carnation pollen, red clay were used as colours along with homemade brush of  twigs wrapped with some strips of cloth.

About Author

Trishna is a Bsc (in Life Sciences) and  MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught  artist, Trishna and has been practising art for over 14 years now. After a  stint with reputed corporates, she found her true calling in her passion, that  is painting.
Trishna is now a full-time  professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest.  She says, "It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to  everyday." Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai.

Madhubani Art


Warli Art


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