Bhil Art: The artistic illustration of Central India

Updated: Jul 16

Bhil Painting

A perennial claim goes that to know the art of a specific place is to know the place itself.

Extending the metaphor to Bhil Art, to look at this art form, is to enter the abode of the artists, to form an intimate connection with Central India directly.

Bhil art by artist Bhuri Bai

The Bhils are a significant Indian tribal group found in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.

Although some claim their genealogy can be traced back to Eklavya of Mahabharata, others think that even Valmiki, the author of Ramayana was a Bhil.

Traditionally, Bhil paintings were created in the family as a means of expression.

A traditional Bhil home contains a fascinating collection of wall and ceiling murals depicting scenes from Hindu mythology and folklore.

The house's interior is redecorated with fresh plaster of mittichitra (clay relief work) and paintings each year.

Bhil Painting in exhibition

Brushes are fashioned from neem twigs, and so are the pigments, which are pulverized from natural materials like leaves and flowers.

Turmeric, flour, vegetables, leaves, and oil were used to create vibrant paintings on floors and walls, that gradually transformed into a language used by the Bhils to express their feelings.

Bhil Painting of a peacock in the jungle

Large, un-lifelike forms of ordinary figures are filled in with earthy, yet brilliant colors, and then covered with an overlay of uniform dots in a variety of patterns and colors that stand out starkly against the backdrop in Bhil paintings.

The dots on a Bhil artwork are not made at random.

It's possible for artists to use these patterns to symbolize anything they choose, from ancestors to deities.

Due to the fact that these patterns are entirely up to the whims of the artists who utilize them, no two pieces by a Bhil artist are the same.

Bhil Art is a primal and instinctual kind of art that emerged from a time-worn relationship with nature.

The Bhils are a predominantly agricultural community whose daily activities revolve around the land they live on.

Most artists learned their craft from their mothers, which gives it an extra unique trademark.

Bhil art of cow in the jungle

Bhil art is frequently ceremonial as well.

Every artwork is a picture of people, animals, insects, deities, and festivals that tell a tale about the region.

Even the Sun and Moon appear in the stories on a regular basis.

Bhil paintings are used to tell legends and lore along with births and deaths, as they are kept track of. Religious observances are also remembered.

At festivals, these paintings are even given as presents to gods and goddesses.