India is a treasure-chest of folk arts. Different styles of folk art have been passed down from ancient times and are today practised not only in India but also in other parts of the world. Each art form is unique but shares common roots of tradition and culture. Some have evolved over the years, adapting to modern and contemporary art forms; while others remain untouched.
Famous Folk Art Forms of India
Here is a list of a few of the many evergreen folk art forms of India.
Characterised by complex geometrical patterns, Madhubani paintings are practised in the Mithila region of Nepal and Bihar. One of its initial references is made in the Indian Epic, Ramayana where Sita’s father, King Janaka, gets Madhubani paintings created for Sita’s wedding. Initially, the paintings showed glimpses of life and nature. In recent times, contemporary artists have given this art a modern touch and taken it to a global stage.
Initiated by the Warli tribe of Maharashtra, Warli wall paintings are made using a set of basic geometric shapes like circle, square, and triangle. Warli art is centred around the elements of nature, which the community worships. Some of their paintings also depict their daily activities like agriculture, hunting, and celebrations. This is the simplest of all the folk arts as it is painted with only white colour on a red backdrop. These days Warli painting is also done on clothes, handbags, home decors, and more.
Pattachitra, when translated from Sanskrit, means cloth (patta) painting (chitra). This art form originated in the village of Puri in Orissa and is highly popular in the Jagannath and Vaishnava cults. The craftsmen through these cloth-based scroll paintings narrate beliefs, ideologies, stories, and mythologies. This traditional folk art comprises of excellent play of colours and intricate details.
This unique art form from the Thanjavur city of Tamil Nadu is characterised by dense composition, vibrant colours, and distinct use of glittery gold foil, which lends the painting a stunning royal look. It also involves the use of semi-precious stones, pearls, and glass pieces. The paintings are made on a wooden plank and are intricately handmade. The paintings portray various mythological figures, along with saints. They show depictions of Krishna, the different avatars of Vishnu, and scenes from the Ramayana like Rama’s coronation. The main deity of each painting is always in the centre of the painting and is shown inside a palace or a temple structure.
Originating from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Kalamkari paintings are made using natural dyes and its process involves more than 20 steps. This folk art is divided into two styles – Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. In the Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari, craftsmen use a pen for freehand drawing and it is entirely hand worked. The Machilipatnam style uses a dyed block for painting. The painting usually depicts scenes from mythological classics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. Today, Kalamkari style sarees are very popular.
Folk art and storytelling go hand in hand. In our latest edition- Legend and Lore – Regional folktales of India’ – read vibrant and exciting stories from different parts of India.
Our artists present you a beautiful amalgamation of folk arts and their individual styles. Here are some of the exclusive snippets of it. Have a look and let us know in the comments below if you’re as excited for its release as us?