Warli is one of the oldest forms of Indian folk art and has its origins in the Warli region of Maharashtra. Despite being close to one of the largest cities in India, the Warli reject much of contemporary culture. The style of Warli painting was not recognised until the 1970s, even though the tribal style of art is thought to date back as early as 10th century A.D. The Warli culture is centered on the concept of Mother Nature and elements of nature are often focal points depicted in Warli painting.
In olden days, Warli art was done on walls on special occasions. The painting would originally be done over a brown background which would basically be a mixture of mud and cow dung cakes. The white pigment used to draw shapes and figures would be a mixture of rice mixed with water and gum. One of the most popular themes in Warli art is a spiral chain of humans around one central motif. This in accordance with their belief that life is an eternal journey, and it has no beginning and end.
This form of tribal art mainly makes use of geometric shapes such as circles, triangles and squares to form numerous shapes depicting life and beliefs of the Warli tribe. The circle and triangle come from their observation of nature, the circle representing the sun and the moon, the triangle derived from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square seems to obey a different logic and seems to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land.
The central motif in each ritual painting is the square, known as the “chauk” or “chaukat”, mostly of two types known as Devchauk and Lagnachauk. Inside a Devchauk is usually a depiction of Palaghata, the mother goddess, symbolizing fertility. Male gods are unusual among the Warli and are frequently related to spirits which have taken human shape.
Another main theme of Warli art is the denotation of a triangle that is larger at the top, representing a man; and a triangle which is wider at the bottom, representing a woman.
Only a Savasini, or a woman who’s husband is alive can make the main portion of the painting for the marriage. All the paintings made on the occasion of the marriage symbolise the existence of Warlis and wedding cannot take place in the absence of these paintings.
In the 1970s, this ritual art took a radical turn when Jivya Soma Mashe and his son Balu Mashe started to paint. They painted not for ritual purposes, but because of their artistic pursuits. Jivya is known as the modern father of Warli painting. Since the 1970s, Warli painting has moved onto paper and canvas.
Mr. Jivya art pieces are also available on Saffronart. Saffronart is a strong and successful international auction house that both embraces and drives change.
You can also read about Warli on Google Art & Culture and The Better India.
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Leaving you for now with this video on Warli Art by AYUSH Adivasi Yuva Shakti.