Adivasi Paintings

A Distinct Painting Tradition

Tribal art is considered very special, especially in a country like India, where they are present in significant numbers. Their distinct culture and isolation in remote areas, have resulted in unique traditions, which is reflected often in their art forms.


The Warlis are an indigenous tribe, generally known as Adivasis. They inhabit the mountainous and also the coastal areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat border region and the surrounding areas. The Warlis are known for their exclusive tradition, which dates back to 3000 BC. The mural paintings by Warlis are considered earthy and pleasant.

Unique Art Form

The skillful brush stroke of the tribal artists who create the master pieces, are a delight to observe. The paintings are extremely rudimentary and these wall paintings consists of a very basic graphic vocabulary in the form of a circle, a triangle and a square. These tribal paintings are mostly monosyllabic. The shapes like circle and triangle are based on the observation of nature, while the circle represents the sun and the moon.Theshape of the triangle is mainly derived fromthe mountains and pointed trees. In these paintings, only square is related a different logic, denoting sacred enclosures or piece of land.Therefore, the central motives in each ritual painting is mainly the square, which is known as the "chauk" or "chaukat". This is mostly of two types namelyDevchauk and Lagnachauk.

In Devchauk, Palaghata, the mother goddess can be seen, which symbolizes fertility. Instead of gods, there is reference in the tribal art to spirits which are seen in human shape. The central motive of the ritual paintings involves scenes which portrays tribal activities likefishing and farming, as well ashunting, festivals and dances, and the natural environment like trees and animals. The bodies of humans and animals are represented by two triangles which are joined at the tip. Here, the upper triangle shows the trunk while lower triangle denotes the pelvis. The precarious equilibrium implies the universal balance, and also that of the couple. It reflects the act of animating the bodies.

Painting Technique

The pictorial language is backed with its rudimentary technique. These ritual paintings are mostly completed inside the huts, the walls of which are made, using a mixture of branches, as well as earth and cow dung. The background is Red Ochre for these wall paintings. The Warlis make use of only whitecolour in paintings. The white pigment used is a mixture of rice paste and water while naturalgum is used as the binding agent. The tribals use a chewed bamboo stick like a paintbrush. The wall paintings are usually done markingspecial occasions such as weddings or harvests.

The highly crude style of tribal paintings, was a preserve of the womenfolk earlier, but later even men started practicing the art, especially in the last four decades. Warli Art is a great intellectual property of the tribal community and its culture. Therefore, Warli Painting has been registered with a Geographical Indication tag, with intellectual property rights act. The modern designers are very much enthralled by this art form, and they have also created an entire line of designer dress wear, which is based on Warli paintings. They make use of traditional patterns which involves rich and folksy colors for recreating the magic of Warli paintings in dresses.