devchaukWarli designs are famous for their simple motifs depicted by use of circles, triangles, squares, dots and dashes, all in white color on a mud-red background. This art is practiced traditional by the tribe called Warli found on the outskirts of Mumbai, Northern and North-West part of Coastal Maharashtra mainly in the Dahanu, Talasari, Mokhada, Vada, Palghara villages of the Thane district. This tribe speaks a language called Varli which does not have a written script. Although being in such close proximity to the metropolitan city of Mumbai, the Warli people shun all modern ways of living and still live in mud houses. In many ways, the Warli paintings have a close resemblance to the early cave paintings found in Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh.

The Warlis paint the interiors and exteriors of their houses during special occasions such as marriage imagesceremonies, birth of a child, bountiful harvest etc. Unlike most traditional and folk art forms, the Warli art does not consist of dieties or gods etc. but they depict the daily lives and social lives of these people. Although it is difficult to determine exactly when this art form originated, it has been traced back to the 10th century AD. It is belived that the lack of a written script probably may have lead to the birth of Warli art form. Lack of writen word necessitated that they find some means of expressing their daily lives and social events. The Warli paintings depict images of humans, animals, trees, houses, sun, moon etc. and activities such as sowing, ploughing, harvesting, hunting etc. Their traditional dances have also been depicted largely in the paintings. The Warli art form is distinctive for its simplification of the intricate human and animal forms and the presentation of these forms in bold graphic style. The rhythmic pattern in which the paintings are created is really awesome and poetic. The paintings are mostly created by the women of the household, the mother imparting the art to her daughter and so on.

What I personally find significant in the Warli paintings is the importance given to depicting human forms engaged in a myriad variety of activities. The human figures are depicted in the silhouette form, shown as two inverted triangles above each other for the upper torso and the pelvis, with legs and hands shown as simple lines and a circle for head. Unlike other art forms of India, details of eyes, nose, mouth etc. are not shown. The male and female forms are also not suggested anatomically being separate but the women are shown to have a knot at the back of the head, the only suggestion of a female form.

warliTraditionally, the wall is painted red using geru color, an earthy-red clay that is mixed with water to form color used to paint clay pots etc. On this red background, paintings are created using white color made by grinding rice in water to form fine paste. The white designs on the earthy-red color shows a strikingly elegant yet so simple patterns that are appealing and pleasing to the eye. At the same time, the designs are also so stylish that it is no wonder Warli arts has now found a way of integrating itself in the modern culture. Only in some instances are dashes of red and yellow color used, otherwise the paintings are only red and white in color, a sharp contrast to the strikingly colorful Madhubani paintings.

Traditional Designs Of Warli

No marriage ceremony of the Warlis is complete without a special painting created for the auspicious occasion of a wedding in the community. The ritual paintings are called Chauks or Chaukats, mainly Devchauk and Lagnachauk for marriage. Inside the devchauk, is the presence of their fertility goddess, Palaghat, also called the Mother Goddess. The Warlis also consider the nature as being the mother of all creations hence nature is the focal point in all their traditions and practices. Also, since they are traditionally farmers who are greatly influenced by the monsoon and other seasons, the seasonal cycles are largely reflected in their paintings.

They belive that the life is cyclical in nature and keeps repeating itself eternally, a fact significantly noted in their painting sin the form of circles and spirals. Also their belief that death is not an end, but a new beginning, manifests itself in the circles. Therefore the circles are drawn on all occasions, such as birth, marriage, and deaths, likening the circles as a symbol of Mother goddess. Therefore warli paintings are prominent with circular and spiral movements that are belived to give everlasting joy.

The Warli art was discovered in the arly 70s when Jivya Soma Mhase, started painting to satisfy his artistic urges, a radical change for the Warlis since jivyait was the women who normally painted. But with the discovery of Jivya Soma Mhase, the Warli art came into public limelight and was appreciated largely by the others. This proved to be a radical change indeed for the warlis as even Five star Hotels started placing orders for a large number of paintings to be displayed in their hotels. Jivya Mhase's talent was even recognised by Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and was even recognised internationally. He displayed his art internationally as well in the art capitals such as Paris, France; dusseldorf, Germany, and Milano in Italy. He won several national and international awards including the coveted Padmashri award in 2011. Jivya's recognition and rise to fame has changed lives of several Warlis, many young men followed his suit and started practicing the art that was previously restricted to rituals and women.

indexThe simplicity, geometric and graphic nature of the Warli art has allowed itself to be integrated in the Modern culture very well and quite effortlessly. Traditionally, what was limited to being mere embellishments for the walls now is seen everywhere, right from textile designs to pretty motifs on walls, lamps etc. Warli motifs are now being used to adorn pretty wall clocks, terracotta pots, lamp shades, pen stands, magazine holders, shopping bags etc. Warli designs are also now in vogue on T-shirts, jackets, dresses and designer silk sarees. They are even used in trendy modern jewellery such as chunky wooden bracelets, pendants etc.


In the face of so many traditional arts and handicrafts dying with changing times, the recognition and application of the Warli arts is indeed very heartwarming and encouraging!

 


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