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Warli Paintings


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Warli Paintings (Warli Arts)

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Warli Painting

Warli Paintings Introduction:

Warli paintings (Warli Arts) are folk paintings from Maharashtra and are very different from other folk and tribal paintings in India. They do not narrate mythology in primary colours as did the Madhubanis nor did it contain the robust sensuality of the paintings found in Eastern India. Instead they are painted on mud, charcoal, cowdung based surface using only white colour, and are decorated with series of dots in red and yellow.

Warli Paintings History and Religion:

Warli is the name of a tribe, which resides in Thane district of Maharashtra on the northern outskirts of Mumbai and extends up to the Gujarat border. They are spread out in the villages named Dahanu, Vada, Talasari, Palghar, Mokhada and several other parts of the district as well. The origin of the warlis is yet unknown and no records of this art are found, but many scholars and folklorists believe that it can be traced to as early as tenth century A.D when man learnt to build walls of the house. The Warli Art (Warli Painting) was eventually discovered in the early seventies, and became popular for its unique simplicity and fervor for life.

The warlis were originally hunters but today they are farmers and work according to the monsoon. Thus their paintings are also influenced by the seasonal cycle as their life around them is directly reflected in the paintings. Tradditionally, only women practiced this art form on the interior walls of their mud houses. Since at that time rice was most easily accessible, they used the colour white, which was made from ground rice flour. As time passed by, the men have also begun to paint.

To understand and enjoy the paintings of Warlis, one should know their religion, their rituals and see life from their perspective. As the life of warlis link closely with nature, they worship the nature in different forms – Sun and moon, god of thunder, lightning, wind, rain, and several others. Gods are worshiped according to the seasons. In the coming of the first rice they worship the god of rain and it’s called the festival of Naranadeva. This is then followed by the worship of household gods, in the festival of Hirva, Himai, Jhoting and Naranadeva.

Next is the festival of Tiger God, and then is Kansari, the goddess of grain, and finally the marriage rituals take place, and this time the deity of fertility, Palghata, is worshipped. For the Warlis, life is cyclic repeating it eternally. Circles best represent the art of warli, which has neither an end nor a beginning. At all occasions – birth, marriage, and death they draw circles, symbol of Mother goddess. Death is not the end for them; rather it is a new beginning.

Similar to their religious beliefs the warli paintings carry this circular and spiral movement that gives an everlasting joy.

Warli Art/Warli Paintings:

Usually the warli paintings are done during the marriage ceremony and they call them as Lagnace citra meaning marriage paintings. The painting is very sacred and without it the marriage cannot take place. The warlis who are simple and happy in nature also include life around them in their paintings because they express everything they see, feel, and believe in life. We find animals, trees, birds, plants, houses, and men in their paintings and they form a loose, rhythmic pattern on the entire surface. Their respect for nature is from the most gigantic to the smallest creature and plant.

When looked closely, they have a light singing and swirling movement, describing their daily activities. The traditional motives and figures are very repetitive and highly symbolic. These paintings form a bridge between the outside world and themselves. They communicate through these paintings and their life style and passion for nature are depicted through this art.

Triangular humans and animals with stick-like hands and legs, and geometrical designs with rows of dots and dashes are drawn on the mud walls of the huts of Warlis. In warli paintings it is very rare to find a straight line Instead they use series of dots and dashes to make one line. The use of space in a warli painting is very fascinating. From the depths of the painting spring a variety of activities with human, animals, and trees. A multiplicity of events takes place simultaneously, and the perspective changes when the baseline of the painting is drawn. Though painted on a flat and muddy surface, it gives us a three-dimensional effect as if the world of Warlis became alive in front of us.

Warli Art/Warli Painting Subjects:

Warli paintings have various subjects or themes, which depict a story from their daily activities. Each painting has numerous elements giving a panoramic view. The subjects found in these paintings are various animals, trees, women, children, men, group of men dancing around a person playing the music, wedding scenes, descriptive harvest scene, birds, dancing peacocks, etc.

The most famous warli painting is the marriage chauk – a painting made at the time of marriage. The warli women called Savasini meaning married women whose husbands are alive, paint a chauk or a square on their walls of their kitchen as they believe they are the most sacred walls in the house where the gods are placed. Before starting to paint, these walls are first plastered with cowdung and the most important part of the wall is coated with geru or red mud. On this a decorative chauk is made and in the center is placed goddess Palaghata, as she has to be present for the wedding. She is widely known as Mother-Goddess. In most of the paintings she is without a head and a human figure. The word Palaghata explains that she represents the over-flowing pot with plants and is the goddess of fertility. The space around the chauk is filled with dotted trees providing shade to the goddess, animals, and men doing various activities like dancing, playing music, climbing trees, carrying loads, or just standing with their limbs flying in the air. Beside the main chauk a smaller chaukis drawn for the god Pancairiya, and it’s called the deva chauk who look after the family. This painting is indispensable during the marriage ceremony.

Other Interesting Places you may wish to visit

Ajanta Caves – ArticlesEllora Caves – Articles:Forts of Maharashtra:Arts of Maharashtra:
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2 comments to Warli Paintings

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