The Indian folk art includes wall paintings, calendar paintings, oil classics, cave paintings, miniatures etc. They in turn trace their roots to different schools namely Madhubani, Patachitra, Gond, Warli, Tanjore, which originate from different parts of India. The states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu were major centers for Indian folk art.
From depicting everyday events like communal dancing, 'religious rites and hunting to animal symbols such as tiger, lion, elephant etc., these paintings exhibit Man’s innate nature to communicate through the medium of folk art. Almost every region in India has developed its distinct style of expression on canvas, varying in its theme, medium used, objective etc. However a few styles stand out owing to their uniqueness a s well as universal appeal. These include the following five styles
- Warli Paintings
Warli paintings are the simplest and the most symbolic forms of tribal painting, Warli traces its roots to a tiny tribe in Maharashtra called the Warli tribe. Warli is characterized by the absence of mythological figures and religious icons. Instead it derives its inspiration from the social events and festivities of the tribe, with heavy concentration on themes such as marriage, men and women dancing in a circle, the flora and fauna etc.
People of this agrarian-based tribe paint. Warli figures consisting of birds, men, women and trees on the mud-based walls of their houses, particularly to mark celebrations such as wedding, harvest season and birth. Using a relatively simple color scheme of bright white against an earthen background, the paintings center around a circle or a spiral, symbolizing the circle of life. An uncomplicated pattern consisting essentially of dots, crooked lines and triangles, forms the basis of this beautiful art.
- Pata Chitra
Pata paintings of Orissa, which came into existence to popularize God and encourage His worship amongst the common people. Influenced by the Bhakti movement, these paintings largely center around two themes - Jagannath and Radha-Krishna. The name 'Pata' is derived from the material on which these paintings are made, a piece of cloth. The study of these paintings portrays the strong relationship that man shares since time immemorial with the Divine. Besides cloth, the Pata paintings are now being done on a variety of different media such as masks, toys etc.
- Madhubani Paintings
Madhubani originates from the region of Mithila in Bihar. Madhubani has been painted mostly by the womenfolk on the walls and floors of their houses especially during festivals and important events such as birth and marriage. Traditionally the walls of the houses are first coated with cow dung and then mud, and the painting is made using lice paste and vegetable colors. With its increasing popularity and demand, the artists are creating art on mediums such as handmade paper, cloth and canvas to showcase their art to the world using poster and fabric colors.
Madhubani is painted mainly with the aim of pleasing God and thus the themes center around religion and pictures of Hindu deities such as Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Sita, Lakshmi etc. Natural elements and symbols such as fishes (symbolizing good luck), serpents (protectors) also occur frequently. Each painting is usually framed within geometric pattern or borders. Use of colors in Madhubani varies from style to style.
- Phad Paintings
Phad paintings of Rajasthan, predominantly from the Bhilwara district), are usually done on cloth in the form of a scroll and are renowned for their unique style and vibrancy. The Phads mostly depict the heroic deeds and exploits of the local rulers and warriors such as the gallant Rajput warrior Prithviraj Chauhan, Amar Singh Rathore in the form of stories painted on long scrolls An average Phad scroll is about thirty feet long. Often these paintings are made and carried from village to village, accompanied by singers narrating the associated tales.
A specific color scheme is employed wherein only a particular color is used at a time and each color pertains to a specific part of the painting for example, orange for limb and torso, yellow for ornaments and design, red for dress, green for vegetation etc. Each painting is highlighted with the help of black as outline. Traditionally only vegetable dyes were employed while painting Phads, but artists nowadays have started using modified water proof earthen colors as an alternative.
- Kalamkari Paintings
Kalamkari means "Art done with the help of a pen". Originating about three thousand years ago, this form of folk painting has been kept alive in Andhra Pradesh through generations by essentially two schools of painting Masulipatnam and Srikalahasti. The main painting is done with the help of hand-crafted wooden blocks, while the detailing is added later on with the help of a pen. Deriving their names from the cities of their origin. The Masulipatnam school of art reflects the influence of Muslim rule in Golconda, as seen by the use of intricate Persian motifs and designs. In contrast the Kalahasti form takes inspiration from religion and temples, concentrating on Hindu mythology, God and epics.'
(A bamboo or date palm stick pointed at one end with a bundle of fine hair attached to the pointed end is used as a pen). Vegetable dyes are used for painting.
The other forms of folk art in India include the Tanjore style from Southern India, Jain art from Gujarat, Pahari miniatures from the North, Pithora from western India etc.