India is a land of stunning folk art forms, among which folk painting occupies an important space. From Bihar to Odisha to Rajasthan and Maharashtra, different regions have passed on their craft through generations that survive even today. Be it Madhubani or Warli, almost all forms of paintings have been made with natural dyes and colours using soil, mud, leaves and charcoal on canvas or cloth – lending it a sense of antiquity and a vintage touch.
Said to be originated in the Kingdom of Janak (father of Sita in Ramayana) in Nepal, Madhubani finds base in present-day Bihar. Practiced mostly by women who wanted to be one with God, Madhubani is characterised by geometric patterns, and depict the gods, flora and fauna.
Originated in Rajasthan, Phad is a religious form of scroll painting depicting folk deities of Pabuji or Devnarayan. It is essentially a 30 or 15 feet long canvas painted on with vegetable colours showcasing a running narrative of the lives and heroic deeds of the deities.
Started by the Warli tribe in the Western Ghats of India, this is easily one of the oldest art forms in the country. Mainly done by white on a red background, Warli paintings make characteristic use of geometric patters such as circles, triangles and squares to depict daily activities like fishing, hunting, festivals, dances and more.
One of South India’s favourite art styles, Tanjore or Thanjavur paintings originated in the 17th-century, inspired by the Nayaks of Thanjavur. The most distinctive feature of a Tanjore painting is its use of gold foil, which glitters and lends it a surreal look. Done in the form of a panel paintings on wooden planks, they depict the gods, goddesses and saints.
A 5th-century cloth-based scroll painting that originated in Puri and Konark in Odisha, Pattachitra is perhaps one of the most famous folk art of India. Done with sharp, angular and bold lines that depict gods and goddesses, the highlight are the dress they’re shown wearing, heavily influenced by the Mughal era.