In an attempt to keep our content accurate and representative of evolving scholarship, we invite you to give feedback on any information in this article.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


    ARTICLE

    Warli Painting

    Map Academy

    Articles are written collaboratively by the EIA editors. More information on our team, their individual bios, and our approach to writing can be found on our About pages. We also welcome feedback and all articles include a bibliography (see below).

    A traditional form of mural art, Warli painting is practised by people of the Warli community in Maharashtra and parts of Gujarat. Composed of distinct motifs as well as depictions of human and animal forms, these murals were traditionally painted on the walls of mud homes during the harvest and the wedding season in these states.

    While the history of the Warli community and the origins of its artistic traditions are not clearly established, some historians – noting similarities between Warli painting and the murals at the Bhimbetka rock caves – believe that Warli painting may have its roots as far back as the tenth century BCE.

    The first step in the creation of a Warli painting involves levelling and smoothing the surface of the mud wall. On the smoothened surface, a paste of cow dung and geru is applied to form the background of the painting. The primary pigment is white, and is derived from a paste of rice flour, while a bamboo stick, crushed at one end to form bristles, is used as a brush. The act of painting is called lihane, which is also the Warli word for writing.

    Warli painting celebrates the cultural, religious and economic life of the community, depicting scenes and motifs from activities such as agriculture, fishing and hunting as well as festivals and occasions like marriages and births. Nature, which has a dominant influence on the religious beliefs of the Warli community, also features prominently in these painted murals. Lines, triangles, squares and circles are used to depict humans, animals and plants in a two-dimensional space. Landscapes including fields, rivers and the forest are clearly demarcated, and there is no overlap between the various patterns and the figures of animals or humans. Scholars speculate that the use of spiral formations and circular designs are inspired by the traditional Tarpa dance, in which members of the community gather around a musician playing the tarpa, a wind instrument made from a gourd.

    Traditionally, Warli painting has been done primarily by women. Further among these women are artists called sahavasini, who specialise in painting the chawk – also known as a lagna chawk or a dev chawk – which is a ritual painting comprising a square enclosing a depiction of Palaghata Devi, the Warli goddess of fertility. It is a crucial part of Warli wedding ceremonies and members of the community sing songs before the chawk as it is painted.

    The depiction of the goddess and the details of the chawk itself may vary from region to region. The square frame of the chawk is usually filled with motifs inspired by objects used during the marriage rites. In some older chawk, figures symbolising the bride and groom were depicted inside the womb of the goddess, while in other areas, the form of the goddess is composed of triangular shapes joined at the apex. Palaghata Devi is often shown with raised hands to symbolise her blessings.

    During the 1970s, Warli painting caught the attention of a wider audience. This was largely due to the works of Warli artist Jivya Soma Mashe, who is credited with helping the art form gain recognition in popular and contemporary art circles. Since then, Warli painting has been adapted to different surfaces such as paper, cloth and canvas, and has incorporated the use of different materials such as acrylic colours and gum instead of the traditional rice paste. In 2014, it received a Geographical Indications (GI) tag from the Indian government.

     
    Bibliography

    Chauhan, Sarita. Folk Painting Traditions of India. New Delhi: Institute for Social Democracy, 2012.

    Dalmia, Yashodhara. “The Warli Chawk: A World-View.” India International Centre Quarterly 11, no. 4 (1984): 79–90. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23001706

    Hoskote, Ranjit. “Situation and Symbol: A Ritual Identity and Mode of Expression Under Bourgeois Cultural Appropriation (with special reference to Warli Art).” The Indian Journal of Social Work LVII, no. 1 (January 1996): 79–90. http://ijsw.tiss.edu/greenstone/collect/ijsw/index/assoc/HASH01ae/cb19f8f5.dir/doc.pdf

    Living Traditions: Tribal and Folk Paintings of India. Delhi: Centre for Cultural Resources and Training, 2017

    Pani, Jiwan. Celebration of Life: Indian Folk Dances. New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 2000.

    Pereira, Winin. “The Sustainable Lifestyle of the Warlis.” India International Centre Quarterly 19, no. 1/2 (1992): 188–204. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23002229.

    “Warli Painting – GI Application No 239.” Geographical Indications Registry, no. 54 (November 28, 2013): 25–83. https://search.ipindia.gov.in/GIRPublic/Application/Details/239

    Feedback
     
    Related Content
    loading