Art is an integral part of human life. Paintings are yet another form of expressing imaginations. The history of paintings in India dates to pre-historic times where there are several rock and cave paintings scattered across the sub-continent. Painted pottery on terracotta and ceramic too have been excavated at several sites. Eventually, it became an attempt to bring the storytelling of the Indian epics to a visual form, each one using the material available locally for colour and canvas. Some forms were patronized by the kingdoms that ruled India and yet a few, used by the local tribes to decorate their dwellings. The use of natural colours on naturally available surfaces has evolved with the generations, picking up influences from various events, people along the way.
This is the land of great artists like Nainsukh, Raja Ravi Varma. Bright and rich colours are now an inseparable part of vibrant culture and lifestyle of being Indian. Here is my attempt to enlist the traditional and folk paintings from all the states of India that can help you as a ready reckoner while you are out travelling in this beautiful land. A few, I would like to crowdsource the details wherever I failed.
These paintings can be strategically used in our daily life that will help revive, sustain and promote these ancient art and rural economy.
- Deccani paintings– are miniatures which predominantly feature palm trees, men & women. The art has a significant influence by the Deccan sultanates who ruled around this area.
- Nirmal art– is where the artisans have developed their own canvas using cardboard and luppam. The striking designs in the form of creepers, flowers etc. have evolved on furniture today.
- Savara paintings– This wall art is practiced by the Savaras tribe around Vishakhapatnam. The wall is readied with a mixture of red soil and paper. The painting is done with brush prepared by chewing tender bamboo into various thickness. White colour is derived from rice powder and black colour is derived with a mixture of coconut ash & castor oil.
- Kalamkari– This is a fabric painting form popular in the rural parts around Machilipatnam. Primarily human faces are block printed using vegetable colours.
- Tholu Bommalaata– This is an art of making leather puppets that are hand painted using vegetable colours, mainly found in the region around Adilabad.
- Kuthang strolls– These are intricate religious paintings of the Buddhists. These are derived from the Tangkha paintings that are auspicious symbols hung in every monastery and houses.
- Khanikar art– These are religious paintings that adorn the monasteries & Satras around the state.
- Assamese silk scrolls– Traditional colours of Hangool & Haital are used to draw representations from Ramayana and Mahabharata on silk strolls. This is practiced in the upper Assam region.
- Mithila or Madhubani– These are originally intricate wall paintings that depict Ramayana & Mahabharata adorning walls across the rural parts of Mithila region and have now become synonymous with the state.
- Patna Kalam– this is also another art form largely patronised during the Gupta era. Several paintings have been found in the Nalanda excavations.
- Godna– This is a primitive art form that has been largely in practice as body tattoos by the women folk in the Jamgula and Bastar region. It has found acceptance in the form of motifs on textile with natural colours mixed with acrylic paints.
- Kaavi mural paintings– is largely popular in the Konkan region. As the colour says, Kaavi is a single colour- red pigment derived from laterite soil. Several structures, churches and temples are coloured with red paint on a white background.
This state is sort of a mélange with vibrant colours used across a range of art forms.
- Pithora– These are wall paintings practiced by the Rathwa & Bhilala tribes
- Miniature paintings– This art has been used to depict epics and large stories under the Jain patronage in 11th century.
- Glass painting– It is believed that the earliest form of painting on glass (Belgium glass) originated in Gujarat.
- Kalampari art– This is a fabric painting technique practiced by the Chitara community.
- With many tribal communities living around the Kutch area, each tribe have their own unique art, patterns and colourations used in their daily life like walls, huts, attire, jewellery, pottery etc. It is an endless list but here are some of them from the Rann of Kutch.
- Rogan painting
- Terracotta paintings like Kavda pottery is believed to have techniques dating back to the Indus Valley civilization.
This is probably the only Indian state that doesn’t have a native art form. With several dynasties and rulers who came and went in this region, there has never been any specific art style that found patrons among who were always busy in fighting battles.
- Kangra & Chamba miniature painting– Although largely spread across all the Himalayan states and largely coming under the Pahari paintings umbrella, the region of Kangra gave its name to the paintings that was largely promoted and patronised by the Rajputs. However, each ruler gave the art form its own twist and called it a different name.
Jammu & Kashmir:
- Basohli miniatures– Again a part of the Pahari painting, the famous artist Nainsukh is believed to have moved from Chamba and have settled in this region during his last days. Thus, giving its name to the bold and intense form of painting the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Hence, Basohli is the first school of Pahari paintings.
- Paitkar scrolls– Ramayana & Mahabharata stories are depicted on paper with colour made from vermillion. Fine brush is made using goat hair.
- Jadopatia scrolls– This form of paintings is used for story telling which are believed to have healing effects on people.
- Sohrai, Kohver, Ganju, Rana, Teli, Prajapati, Kurmi, Mundas, Turi, Birhor & Bhuiya, Ghatwal- these are mural paintings used to decorate the walls of the tribal houses. Each, representing a tribe and have their own style. The common factor between all these styles are that the designs comprise of animals & plants depictions thus indicating the connection of nature and the tribe.
- Mysore Royal painting– influenced by the Vijayanagar school of painting, this art flourished under the Mysore Wodeyars. Bright natural colours obtained from vegetables, organic, minerals were painted using natural brushes. Squirrel hair was used for finer strokes and brushes made with a specific grass was used for various thickness and strokes.
- Kalam– This is a short name for Kalamezhuthu, a rural art of painting.
- Face painting– with various traditional dance forms and ritualistic prayers, face painting is an essential part of art in Kerala. Largely seen in its vibrant designs and patterns during Theyyams, Kathakali etc.
- Oil paintings– These murals are very elaborate piece of portraits largely practiced in the Northern part of Kerala.
- Gond art– A painting style that is used by the Gond tribes. This largely comprises of finely drawn lines in a picture that encompasses animals and plants.
- Pithora wall paintings– this form of art is inspired by various myths and is used by the Bhilala tribe to keep away evils. You can often see walls and both sides of the doors painted with patterns that are believed to protect them.
- Malwa painting– This folk art can be found on floors and walls and practiced by the Chitera community. Chalk powder blended with turmeric & saffron for suitable shades of the colour is used in doing these paintings.
- Mandana paintings– This art is used to depict special occasions and festivals and used only during specific events.
- Warli– Used to adorn walls by the tribe, this painting uses patterns like triangles and circles to represent community living, human being, trees, animals and everything in general.
- Chitrakathi paper paintings– as the name suggests, Chitra (picture) + Katha (story)- These are single sheet paintings used by a specific migrating community of Thakkar tribe for storytelling. Local version of Ramayana & Mahabharata and other myths are painted using colours made from stones. These are also called as Paithani paintings.
- Naga cloth painting– Several Naga tribes reside in Nagaland and each have their own designs in their houses, dresses and morungs. However, the Lotha, Ao and Rengma tribes have their traditional designs painted on fabric. Fine bamboo brushes are used to transfer colours that are made by mixing tree sap, leaf ash and local beer.
- Patachitra– These are traditional cloth-based scroll painting from rural parts of eastern Odisha. It is inspired by Mythic elements like Lord Jagannath and is derived from ancient Bengali art which is used for narration in the visual form when a song is performed.
- Sikh miniature painting– This an influence of the Kangra paintings and is used as a narrative of various stories from the life of Guru Nanak. Hence, has a vital role in Sikhism.
The list of painting related art forms from this state is endless. Here is a small compilation of the same.
- Phad cloth scrolls– These paintings are based on stories from Ramayana & Mahabharata. They have influences of both religious and folk performances by the local priests.
- Rajasthani miniature paintings– When the Mughal artisans dispersed from the Northern India, they were sheltered and patronised by various Rajput kings. Individual ruler had his influence on the style, and it evolved into individual styles, largely coming under a common umbrella called as Rajasthani school of paintings.
- Wall & ground paintings– Various styles like Devra, Pathwari, Sanjhi, Mandav etc. can be seen based on the individual communities.
- Cloth paintings– like Pat, Picchwai, Phad scrolls etc.
- Paane paper paintings.
- Kavad wooden paintings.
- Body paintings– various designs are drawn on human skin using natural colours like Mehendi & Godana
- Thape paintings– This is a wall & door painting style that is used to invoke deities. Natural colours like turmeric, henna, vermillion is used.
- Badaley paintings– These are either cloth or leather paintings that are used to cover metal utensils. It is prominent around Jodhpur.
- Thewa art– This is a form of painting small pieces of glass with gold. It is a famous art around Pratapgarh in Bhilwara region.
- Thangka painting– These are religious strolls that depict important lessons from Buddhism. This uses organic colours and even gold dust and adorns walls, roof and mural in Buddhist houses and monasteries.
- Tanjavur paintings– This is a classical art form that has a 3-D effect with embellished with precious stones, glass pieces & pearls. It has been largely patronized by the Cholas and then have influences from the Marathas and others who ruled the region.
- Cherial scroll painting– This is a folk art on very long cloths used for story telling that can sometimes run into several meters. It is painted specifically by the Kako Padagollu community.
- Mughal/ Persian painting style– The Mughals got artisans from Persia and used their designs and patterns in all their structures across. Art flourished especially during the reign of Jehangir.
- Garhwal painting– Again, something that has been a part of the Pahari school, this form largely uses characters that depict romance.
- Patua art– This is a traditional narrative cloth scroll painting style done by a community called the Patuas. An entire story is depicted on a single scroll with several panels for each chapter. The speciality of the art is its people who are mainly Muslim and paint Hindu religious figures in their artwork. These are same as Odisha Pata paintings in theme selection but entirely different in their style and composition.
- Kalighat painting– This started as paintings in items that were taken as offerings to Kali temple at Kalighat and has now become a specific form of painting. This is also a form of scroll painting but main difference is that this is done on paper.
- Tribal paintings– This is primarily popular among the ‘Santhal tribes’ around the areas of Purulia, Birbung and Barbura.
And how not to forget the wonderful patterns in bright colours adorning the front yards of all Indian homes? Rangoli as it is commonly called, this art is called with different names depending on the region you are in. But is a representation of the artist that dwells in every Indian household.