Folk Art Paintings



Traces of art and craft are found everywhere in India. People in remotest parts of this country are busy in finding a way or other to express their inner feelings. Using the basic material available to them, they create artistic pieces that are attractive in their rudimentary simplicity. India's folk art paintings are India's pride, for they are the untouched specimens of an age old tradition.

For centuries, these paintings that adorned the homes and courtyards of villagers and tribes were dismissed as irrelevant and primitive forms of expression that hardly amounted to the richness and refinement associated with true art. It was only as late as the beginning of the twentieth-century that scholars began to take notice of India's folk art paintings and give them the credit they deserved.

Madhubani Paintings

These folk art paintings are painted on household walls by the women of the Madhubani village in Bihar, India. They paint figures from nature and mythology to mark the seasonal festivals, and for special events such as marriages. The technique of painting a Madhubani is zealously guarded by the women in the family, and passed on from mothers to their daughters.

Though the women of this small village in Bihar have been painting for centuries, their work was only recognized in the 1960s, when a drought hit the area. Then, people had to think of an alternative non-agricultural way of earning money. They began to sell their paintings.

Pata Paintings

In the 12fth century, the Ganga kings commissioned a group of painters who used to throng the lanes of Puri in Orissa, India, to popularize the cult of the Jagannath Temple. These were the Pata painters.

The themes of this form of folk art painting were inspired by the Bhakti Movement (a religious movement of the times). The paintings depicted the tales of Radha-Krishna and Jagannath, in bold colors. Pata paintings also found their way into decoration of Ganjifa playing cards, masks and toys.

Pithora Paintings

These folk art paintings of the tribes of Rathwa, Bhilals and Nayka of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, are a fine example of Indian wall painting . They convey the joy and celebration of the community, and are more of a ritual than a painting form. When a family problem occurs, the head priest or Badwa is summoned. He offers solutions which often involve painting Pithoras on the walls of the house. The custom is to paint the first wall of the house and the two walls around it.

The colors are made by mixing pigments with milk and liquor of the Mahuda tree. First the walls are plastered with mud and cow-dung. Then they are coated with chalk powder. This process is called lipna . Thereafter, the painting is done.

Nirmal Paintings

The small town of Nirmal in Andhra Pradesh, India, is famous for its wooden works and glazed paintings. These folk art paintings are painted using oil paints. They are characterized by bold colors and their themes are generally from the epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Warli Paintings

These folk art paintings of the Warli tribes of Maharashtra depict their way of life in a lively manner. These tribes adorn the walls of their home with these paintings, during the harvest season, and during wedding and birth celebrations.

The patterns of a Warli painting are usually circular or spiral. This indicates the circle of life. The color scheme is very restricted, however. It is limited to stark white against earthen colored backgrounds. Geometric designs dominate. The painting units are dots and crooked lines. The typical themes are those of marriage. These depict the marriage god, Palghat, his horse and the bride and groom. These paintings are sacred to marriage ceremonies. Another popular theme of this form of folk art is that of men and women dancing in circles and spirals around a musician.

Phad Paintings

The folk art painting called a phad, originates in Rajasthan, India. The smaller version of phad is known as phadakye. It is a cloth painting which venerates the deeds of a hero such as Goga Chauhan, Prithaviraj Chauhan, Amar Singh Rathor, Tejaji, and others. Today, the stories from the life of Papu ji , and Narayandev ji are primarily depicted.

The painting of a phad is a ritual of sorts. It commences with offerings to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and art. Thereafter, a rough draft of the sketch is made on the khadi cloth, and the figures are perfected. The empty spaces are then covered with flora and fauna. All figures are colored yellow initially and this base is called kachcha . Then the youngest virgin girl of the artist's family or a family of a higher caste is called upon to make the first stroke. This ritual is followed by celebrations and distribution of sweets. Only one color can be used at a time and specific colors are used for different things- orange for limbs and torso, yellow for ornaments, clothing and designs, gray for structure, blue for water and curtains, green for trees and vegetation and red, prominently for dress. All these are outlined with bold black strokes, which give definition to these forms. As is now apparent, the colors are used in a fixed order, starting from orange-yellow to brown, green, red, and finally black.

The phad painting is celebrated for its bold colors. These colors are usually vegetable dyes. However, threatened by the scarcity of these natural colors, artists have started making waterproof earthen colors by pounding them with gum, water and indigo.
A traditional phad runs the length of thirty feet, and is five feet wide.

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