Thursday, June 4, 2009

Warli Art – Pictures from the past


Culture is not one dimensional aspect of life but it is itself a whole that expresses in various ways. . Indian culture, as it is seen today, is an eclectic mix of people and traditions, what with the country being a melting pot of civilizations for thousands of years. The earliest known art form in India is tribal art. While each tribal art form has its own history and influences, there is one that by virtue of its inherent simplicity, commands attention – the unique art of the Warli tribe from Western India.

Warli art was first discovered by the modern world in the 70s and was accepted and appreciated widely among people. The style of Warli art is reflective of a folk and ethnic culture hitherto unknown to Indians. Unlike other traditions such Madhubani that illustrate mythical tales or those that depicts sensuality such as the art forms from Eastern India, Warli paintings deal with the relatively mundane happenings of daily life.

The Warlis are from the western region of India, primarily Thane in Maharashtra, where the tribe resides. It is more or less certain that the Warlis have followed a tradition rooted in the Bronze age, before 3,300 BC, when paintings were done on cave walls. It is also assumed to be the period when the early human discovered agriculture and nature’s seemingly unlimited output.

The Warlis’ perception about life being a recurring cycle is best represented in their paintings with circular patterns that seem to have no beginning or end. Also death for the tribe marks the beginning of a new journey and not an end. This belief is represented in the curved and circular patterns their painting take. This approach to their paintings lends a sense of objectivity that is essential as it gives a keen observer an abstract panoramic view of life. It reinforces the traditional idea that life and death are not ends in themselves, but in fact a continuous process of evolution.

Warli paintings reflect the tribe’s abundant reverence for nature and their simple lifestyle. The Warlis also draw inspiration from regular events in their lives, which make the paintings very easy for the viewer to relate to. Human figures in paintings are small, yet represented with utmost clarity. They are triangular in shape and their limbs are symbolized by thin line drawings. Geometrical design is many a time the basis of the paintings; the paintings are a representation of various events, which look beautiful when the baseline is drawn. On a plain brown background, the paintings look almost three dimensional, making them come alive.

The most renowned of all the traditional Warli paintings is the marriage chauk or square, drawn during weddings. The walls of the kitchen become the canvas for the women as they consider the kitchen walls to be the most sacred in the house. The women are savasini or women who are married and whose husbands are still alive. The center of attraction of the paintings is Goddess Palaghata. The term Palaghata means that the Goddess is, in essence, a teeming pot of plants and fertility. Her presence in wedding ceremonies is a must. Dotted trees form the border of the chauk and enclose the whole painting as if shading the goddess and those participating in the ceremony.

Despite the challenges of maintaining traditions in our transient and fast-paced world, the Warli paintings are a reminder of the rich tribal culture that continues to thrive in our country.

Synopsis - Art And Craft Of India, India Old Art Heritage, India Art Heritage, India Traditional Art, India Village Art, India Rural Art Forms, India Artistic Heritage.

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