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Warli : The Tribal Art of West of India

Warli : The Tribal Art of West of India


The Art of the Western part of India, Warli Art, is one of the oldest form of Art, although it came to light only in the early '70s. Various districts and villages of Mahrashtra, still practice this Art. While today it is an 'Artform' and publically available, earlier it was imbibed on the walls of the mud houses of the tribe.

Blue Warli Art by Pradeep Swain

The backdrop of this art is earth or rather mud, and rice paste is used to paint the forms and thinner bamboo is chewed at one end, to make it as a brush, and it is used give life to this beautiful form of art. This artform, uses basic geometric shapes of circles, squares and triangles as the basis of the painting. Everything and every form is reperesented in the paintings through these three shapes. The paintings are an ode to the nature, the environment around and a documentation of everything that is inclusive in their lives. Their lives and lifestyle and the connection with the higher realm of Nature, the Sun and Moon God is what is represented in the paintings. The circle shape represent Sun and Moon and other celestial bodies, while the triangle represent the trees and sometimes the human bodies. Square is majorly used to represent humans and their inventions, or to reperesent the indication of land. Uses of lines and dots is also prevalent to represent various other parts of themselves and their surroundings.

Warli Art by Nikita Mundekar

The paintings also showcase the Goddess of Fertility and the Male Gods. Male Gods are considered spirits which have taken human forms. Their beliefs of the circle of life, and the life being unending, is also visible in their paintings.The main portrayal in their paintings have the scenes of the celebrations in the tribe and also their daily chores. Most paintings have a central motif, people around it- doing rituals or tasks, and nature. Common scenes depicted are those of the ritual dances and festive ceremonies.

Warli Art by Pradeep Swain |

Another central theme for the paintings is the Tarpa Dance. Tarpa, is the instrument like a trumpet which is used by the tribe during their festivals. People of the tribe all come together for this dance, and hold hands and face the Tarpa, and move along with it. One must never show their backs to the Tarpa, as it is considered sacred.

Warli Art by Sanjay Parhad |

The musician plays two different notes, which direct the head dancer to either move clockwise or counterclockwise. The tarpa player assumes a role similar to that of a snake charmer, and the dancers become the figurative snake. The dancers take a long turn in the audience and try to encircle them for entertainment. The circle formation of the dancers is also said to resemble the circle of life. The art shows the equlibirium with which the tribe reside - everything is a part of them and they, the part of the bigger universe, to which they bow and pray to.

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