The 10 Art Forms You Must Explore in India

The corners of our homes are adored by them while few are worshipped within the sanctum sanctorum of temples; they are diverse in nature and yet connected by the common thread of painting – spread across several states in India. The culture, heritage, and art forms in India is a reflection of the diverse nature spread across several states. It’s not only about the skill set that comes with every painting and the artists behind it but also the social, cultural, and religious sentiments which are attached to it that make it extra special – today, we’ll tell you about the 10 artforms that you must explore in India!


The 10 Art Forms You Must Explore in India

1. Pichwai

Hung behind the glorious idols of Lord Krishna, Pichwai paintings are known for their motifs related to Lord Krishna – lotus, cows, peacocks, Radha, gopis, and Lord Krishna himself. Pichwai style started from the dainty town of Nathdwara of Udaipur, Rajasthan where these paintings done on clothes were hung behind the deity of Shrinathji, who is famously known as the seven-year-old manifestation of Lord Krishna. Pichwai artworks are done intricately and the function of Pichwai art is suggested by its name itself - pich meaning back, and wai meaning hanging. Famous Pichwai art can take a long period to make, sometimes up to months, as it is done with extreme finesse and pinpoint precision.

2. Madhubani

   One of the most famous forms of folk painting, Madhubani art originated in the Mithila region of Bihar. This painting is rooted in religion and belief as it is believed that its history dates back to the wedding of Sita. Madhubani paintings are colorful and the canvas is filled with different motifs, all of which have a significant meaning behind them. For example, elephants symbolize strength, loyalty, and nobility, trees symbolize long life, fishes symbolize fertility, and so on. Madhubani artworks has five distinct styles known as Kachni, Bharni, Tantrik, Godhna, and Kohbar; these paintings were chiefly done by women.

 3. Pattachitra

   A visual treat for the eyes, Pattachitra paintings are known for their story-telling skill; pattachitra literally means painting on cloth, patta means cloth and chitra means painting. Originated in West Bengal and Odisha, Pattachitra art is used differently in both regions; on one hand, it is used as a cloth painting for storytelling in Bengal Pattachitra, and on the other hand, it is used as a religious object in various customs and prayers related to Lord Jagannath in temples of Odisha. While Patachitra paintings in Odisha have different versions like Bhitti chitra (wall paintings), patta chitra (paintings on cloth), and tala pattachitra (paintings on palm leaves), Bengal pattachitra has styles like chal chitra (used behind Goddess Durga’s idol), Durga Pot (pattachitra used for worshipping), Kalighat pattachitra, tribal pattachitra, etc. Patta paintings were originally used as temple souvenirs and were considered time-intensive and elaborate works.

4. Gond

   A canvas that is full of dots, crosses, and lines, seamlessly blended with each other and tied together with sacred beliefs. Gond painting is known as one of the most famous forms of tribal art; done by one of the biggest tribal groups in India. People of the Gond community are known as the Gondi people and are spread across several states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, etc. Gond art was traditionally done on floors and walls of homes to show gratitude to nature and usher in good luck. Gond is derived from the word ‘Kond’ which means green mountain and hence, Gond artworks are closely intertwined with nature; most of the motifs drawn in Gond paintings are related to it – birds, animals, rivers, nature, etc.

5. Warli

If you have ever spotted an art that is done on a brick red or brown background with white color, then you have successfully spotted a Warli painting! The word ‘Warli’ is derived from the word ‘Warla’ which means a piece of land. A 2500 years old art form, it originated in districts of Maharashtra like Talasari, Mokhada, Vikramgad, Jawhar, etc. Warli art is drawn using geometric figures like circles, triangles, and squares which depict the scenes from the daily lives of people from the Warli tribe like hunting, farming, fishing, animals, trees, etc. The most common motif is a chain of humans in a spiral formation around a principal motif which depicts that life is an eternal journey.

6. Tanjore

Probably one of the most expensive and bejeweled paintings, Thanjavur or Tanjore paintings originated in 1600 AD in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu; many people believe that it also originated in the Maratha court of Thanjavur. Tanjore paintings are made by using gold foils, precious and semi-precious jewels, glass beads, and extensive gesso work; they mostly depict Hindu god and goddesses, animals, birds, and flowers. This style of painting has been influenced by the Deccan, Maratha, and European styles of painting and was traditionally done on all kinds of mediums- wooden planks, canvas, walls, and even ivory.

7. Kalamkari

Kalamkari style fabrics are utterly famous amongst people for their simplicity and soberness but not many know that it has stemmed out of a painting – Kalamkari painting is literally known as ‘painting with a pen’ and has two distinct types of style – Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti from Andhra Pradesh. They were traditionally done using block prints which we now see in the form of Kalamkari fabrics. The entire process of making a Kalamkari is done by covering seventeen steps which include block printing, washing, printing, etc. Kalamkari art depicts motifs that are camouflaged with the background and yet makes for an eye-catching design. Made mostly from vegetable dyes, its themes include birds, flora and fauna, and scenes from Hindu epics.

8. Classical Indian Art

Classical Indian art is famously known for its miniature collection coming from four different schools of painting, namely – Rajput or Rajasthani painting, Deccan painting, Pahari painting, and Mughal painting. The most prominent school of painting amongst these continues to be the Mughal style of painting which majorly influenced the other three schools of painting; illustrated work in the Mughal school of painting flourished between the 16th and 18th centuries. With the reign of Aurangzeb, a lot of the artists were abandoned from their patronage and these disseminated artists found shelter in other schools which eventually picked up small nuances from the school of Mughal painting.

9. Kalighat

An art that originated near the temple of Kalighat Kali temple in Kolkata and eventually went onto become a revered art form all over the country, Kalighat paintings emerged out of the need to produce handy and easy souvenirs for temple visitors during the 19th century. Kalighat Kali temples are an extension of Bengal pattachitra which was a narrative form of story-telling, famous amongst people in rural Bengal. Kalighat art is famous for its bold brush strokes and use of watercolor; their peculiarity lies in the plain and untouched backgrounds which was also a way for the erstwhile artists to save time and produce more paintings for their customers. Kalighat patachitra paintings begun with religious themes but gradually shifted to contemporary-daily-life-scenes.

10. Phad

From the state of Rajasthan comes a traditional style of painting known as Phad painting. These paintings are used as religious objects and considered as mobile temples which are carried by the priest-singers known as Bhopas of the Rabari tribe. The spectacle of narrating a Phad painting was carried out by the Bhopas who would unroll the Phads and narrate it, accompanied with music and dance. Phad paintings are traditionally scroll paintings that can be as long as 15-20ft in length and these paintings depict the local folk deities Pabuji and Devnarayan which are locally known as Devnarayan ki Phad and Pabuji ki Phad. It was initially painted by the members of the Joshi family that belonged to the Chipa caste; to date due to the efforts of the Joshi family, this art has continued to flourish.

January 31, 2021 — Team Bimba