Having an appreciation of Indian art needs us to be connected to our cultural heritage. Art forms in India have been influenced by traditions that have existed for thousands of years. One of the most popular traditional art forms is Madhubani; the style derives its name from its geographical origin in Mithila in northern Bihar and is alluded to in Indian mythology. Known for its use of local plants for colors, cow dung to treat the paper, bamboo sticks to act as brushes, and the simplicity and beauty of the paintings themselves, Madhubani or Mithila art, is particularly noteworthy.
On freshly plastered walls and floors of mud huts, women painted the first Madhubani paintings hundreds of years ago. Legend has it that King Janak, ruler of Mithila's region, requested that this new form of painting depict the wedding of his daughter Sita to Prince Rama, the protagonist of the epic Ramayana. However, the exact origin of the painting is unknown. In time, this method was passed from generation to generation. Today, Madhubani paintings are made on canvas, cloth and handmade paper. Despite the fact that most modern painters are male, Madhubani is a female-dominated form of art developed historically by women.
In a similar fashion to other folk arts, it expresses the psychology of the society to which it belongs; it tells compelling stories about the morals, values, and customs of the region. The artist uses fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, along with natural dyes and pigments. The result is a beautiful geometric design. The paintings are primarily created by the women of this region and are therefore important in such a male-dominated society. The paintings are predominantly of religious motives. Each painting illustrates a love motif, which symbolizes fertility. There are different types of murals, such as those made for the room of prayer, the ritual area, the bride's room, or the main walls of the village to welcome visitors. Based on the regional style and individual artist style, each drawing is different from the other. Hindu deities and episodes from their sacred literature are the most prominent themes and designs found in these paintings, including the scenes of Radha and Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Ganesha, Lakshmi, and Saraswati, the monkey, the sun, the moon, Tulsi, and the traditional earthen lamp - symbolizing a successful life, wedding scenes, and other important social events. Selectiveness in the artistic expression makes this form unique. In ancient times, this art form was created on mud-walls or soil-ground on auspicious occasions, then erased the very next day. Hence, there are no remnants of these works. They are momentary and natural. While these popular arts were passed on without technical tools, they were easy to transfer from one generation to another, thus leading to its expansion through experimentation and creativity.
The Second art form elaborated upon would be the Warli Tribal Painting. Located outside of Mumbai, the Warli tribe is one of the largest in India. Even though the Warli is close to one of India's largest cities, they are openly hostile to much of modern culture. Despite the fact that Warli painting dates back as early as the 10th century A.D., it was not recognized until the 1970s. In Warli painting, elements of nature are frequently depicted as focal points and are central to the Warli culture. Their main source of income is farming, which provides them with food in abundance. Their respect for nature and wildlife goes hand-in-hand with their love of the natural world. The clay huts of Warli artists serve as the backdrop to their paintings, similar to how ancient people painted on cave walls as their canvas.
An untrained eye might not see much of a difference between a white Warli figure and a red ochre wall. Warli is more complex than meets the eye, as you'll discover on closer inspection. There is more to it than just art; it is a way of life for the Warli tribes inhabiting the mountain ranges and coastal regions of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Originally developed around 3000 BC, this art form is enigmatic and compelling. Both home décor brands and fashion designers are fond of geometric patterns, such as intricate floral patterns, wedding rituals, hunting scenarios, and similar daily scenes. Gujaratis and Maharashtrians certainly have an affinity for the art form since they saw it on the walls of rural homes and schools long before they began appearing on modern lifestyle products. A certain raw appeal is evident in these simple yet delicate patterns. To a certain extent, Warli art suggests the importance of being environmentally friendly and finding joy in the small pleasures in life. It is said that the Warli lead a rather simple lifestyle. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, they worshipped nature and were reliant on natural sources for food and livelihood. Consequently, they never disrupted nature or took more than they needed. Warli paintings often illustrate their belief in harmony between nature and man.
In today's world, this line of thought is equally valid. A minimalist lifestyle is now more popular among urbanites, who avoid technology when possible, eat healthily and use handlooms rather than industrial machines. Hence, it is not surprising to see traditional arts like Warli resurfacing in our society. Traditional arts like Warli remind us to delight in the simple pleasures of life.
The third art form elaborated upon would be the Santhal Paintings. Tribal paintings made by the Santhal tribe are recognized as one of the most unique in India. They are known as Santhal Tribal Paintings. The forest is significant to the Santhal tribes - their activities - such as farming, fishing, and hunting, are incredibly reliant on it. A long day at work leaves them exhausted, and their leisure time is filled with music and dance. Festivals and fairs among the Santhals are characterized by an abiding love for dance and music. The Santhal paintings depict this kind of community life, especially rituals and celebrations. A series of minimalist paintings depict dancing, harvest, and joyful celebrations through enchanting images and muted shades.
This Bengali folk art, concocted by the Santhal tribes, has unparalleled style. The paintings in this assemblage characterize the tribes participating in musical festivities or illustrating life in their culture through themes such as harvest, family life, and rituals. Pata, or cloth, is the medium used by the Santhals. The scrolls are then unfurled to tell a story. Paintings do not get sold; instead, they are given away in exchange for donations in the form of songs based on the stories. Such songs are referred to as Pater Gaan. Before the advent of synthetic colors, Santhals used natural dyes prepared from different leaves and flowers. Instead, they now use synthetic paints and weave two sheets of paper jointly, forming a scroll that is small and medium in size.
Moving forth, onto the implementations of these paintings. In addition to ceremonial celebratory events, the Santhals also paint the walls of their huts for self-expression. Their idolization of a stone, the singing of their wrangles, and as if they were expressing to animals and birds, their narratives of their customary affairs are vivid and full of details. The Santhal paintings feature a directness and a youthful simplicity in the depiction of birds, animals, and insects, with primary colors and leafy patterns in the foreground, background, and borders. In contrast with realistic projections, the figures are static, multi-colored, and often artistic.
Lastly, a mention of the scenarios expressed in the paintings. Among them were mothers and children as well as human, animal, and bird couples united in love and union. An extensive view of the village frames the scene, with women carrying wood and water, men driving bullocks to the market, people dancing and singing under a tree, a couple under flowers; a family going to the field for cultivation; men and women cutting wood, chopping firewood, carrying water on their heads; hunters returning with their catch; fishing; taking mud pots to the market to be sold; flying kites, swinging, and the groom's brothers carrying the bride in a basket. It tells of the strong family bond and exudes rare energy that animates Santhal art. Colors are not held with logical meaning; birds and fish appear in different colors. Pictures are drawn in black and colored afterward. They used natural colors made from plants and stones, with a striking tinge of their own. While the older generation still uses natural colors, the young prefer synthetic ones. Today, black and white paintings on canvas are also obtainable for sale.
The fourth art form elaborated upon would be Sanjhi Paper Art. It is a traditional practice of stenciled paper cutting that has served as a means of expressing devotion to Krishna among artists. An art form unique to Mathura, Sanjhi Art, features intricate patterns cut into paper and exquisite designs. Traditionally, craftsmen use specially designed scissors to create the designs. In addition to its aesthetic allure, it is considered one of the finest arts of spiritual expression for its inherent spiritual meaning. Sanjhi motifs were painted on temple walls and floors in the 16th and 17th centuries when the art began to gain popularity. This art form is typically associated with dusk, hence the term Sanjhi, which comes from the Hindi word sandhya. A predominant focus of the art is Krishna's Leela, but other mythological tales are also presented. In folklore, Sanjhi rangolis are said to have originated with Radhe, who used natural colors, flowers, leaves, and colored stones in order to woo Krishna. Following their example, the other gopis began creating intricate designs as well. In Mughal times, contemporary subjects were introduced to bring a greater perspective to the Sanjhi.
Today, Sanjhi art is found in many homes and spaces. A version of it was used for pictograms during the Commonwealth Games and displayed in metro stations in Delhi. With the help of specially designed scissors, stencils are made on paper to create Sanjhi art. On flat surfaces or on water, these stencils are placed where the rangoli is to be drawn. Once the colors are dry, they are sifted onto the surface. As important as cutting the design is filling the colors and lifting the stencils. The most common motifs used on these items include peacocks, bullock carts, horses, cows, butterflies, and trees. This intricate carving reflects the artist's devotion and the artist's intimate relationship with the Blue God. Creating a complex Sanjhi design could take as little as an hour or as much as a month. The artist's perfection of portrayal, a well-matched combination of colors, and the intricate ornamental patterns of every Sanjhi art piece make each piece visually imposing.