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Bhil Art: The artistic illustration of Central India

Updated: Jul 16, 2022

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.

Bhil art of birds in the jungle

Bhil painters frequently use Pithora horses as a motif.

Pithoras are frequently painted by traditional painters, known as lekhindras, as offerings to the deities.

The residents of the Kingdom Dharmi Raja, according to tradition, have forgotten the sound of laughter.

Pithora, the valiant prince, rode his horse over hazardous terrain and returned to the goddess Himali Harda with laughter and joy.

The Bhils, like many Adivasi tribes, live close to nature and rely heavily on agriculture.

Their paintings depict the passage of time, natural occurrences that lead their harvest, and the gods that guard them.

Padma Shri winner Bhuri Bai is a Bhil artist

Bhuri Bai of Zher is one of the leading Bhil artists of our time.

Her artworks continue to decorate the walls at the Museum of Mankind in Bhopal. Ladoo Bai, Sher Singh, Ram Singh, and Dubu Bariya are some more contemporary Bhil painters to look out for.

Sher Singh's work is distinguished by his striking color pallet of red, green, and black.

Bhil painters have recently begun to include modern aspects into their array of figures.

Buses and other modes of transportation are frequent themes as well.

Bhil art is so appealing because of its unpretentious simplicity.

The dots that fill in the imperfect forms, telling us a tale about life as it unfolds, have a holy quality to them.

Bhil art of an elephant in the jungle

“Everything in our lives revolves around art,” according to Bhil artist Sher Singh. And, based on the Bhil art we've seen, we couldn't agree more: the Bhils live in a vibrant world.

Author: Akash R. Ekka

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