Warli painting is a type of tribal art created mostly by the tribal communities of Maharashtra's North Sahyadri area. The Palghar district comprises towns including Dahanu, Talasari, Jauhar, Palghar, Mokhada, and Vikramgarh. This tribal art was born in Maharashtra and is still practiced there today.
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The Warli Chitra tradition in Maharashtra is one of the finest examples of the folk style of painting. Despite being close to Mumbai, one of the largest cities in India, Warli defies contemporary culture. The style of Warli painting was not recognized until the 1970s, even though this tribal style of art is considered as early as the tenth century AD.
In the 1970s, this sacramental art took a revolutionary turn when Jiva Soma Mashe and his son Balu Mashe began painting. He painted not for religious purposes, but because of his artistic pursuits. Jiva is known as the modern father of Warli painting. From the 1970s, Warli painting began to move to paper and canvas.
Coca-Cola India also launched a campaign called "Coming home on Diwali" linked to Warli painting to highlight the ancient culture and represent the spirit of solidarity.
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The simple pictorial language of Warli painting corresponds to a rudimentary technique. Religious images are usually made on the inner walls of village huts. The walls are made of a mix of branches, earth, and red brick which forms the red ocher background for the paintings.
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Warli art consists solely of drawing using a white pigment created from a blend of rice flour and water, with gum as a binder. The end of a bamboo stick is bitten to simulate the texture of a paintbrush. To celebrate significant occasions such as weddings, festivals, or harvests, the walls are painted in Warli style.
The basic geometric shapes used in these simple wall paintings are a circle, a triangle, and a square. These shapes represent numerous natural components. The Sun and Moon are represented by the circle, while mountains and conical trees are represented by the triangle.
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The square, on the other hand, is depicted as a human creation, denoting a sacred enclosure or piece of land. Another major subject in Warli art is the naming of a giant triangle at the top, which depicts a man, and a smaller triangle that spreads downwards, which depicts a lady.
Aside from ritualistic paintings, other Warli paintings portray the village people's day-to-day activities.
Warli paintings are traditional knowledge and cultural intellectual property that has been preserved across generations. Realizing the urgent need for intellectual property rights, Adivasi NGO Adivasi Yuva Sangh helped register Warli paintings with Geographical Indication under the Intellectual Property Rights Act. Various efforts are on to strengthen the sustainable economy of Warli with social entrepreneurship.
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Author: Pratichi Rai
Editor: Rachita Biswas