The traditional arts of India perfectly represent India’s colorful patchwork of cultures. These are resplendent in traditional vibrancy and portray the stories of the people and their lives. Some of the famous types of Indian art include Rajasthani miniatures, Madhubani paintings of Bihar, Patachitra of Odisha, Tanjore art from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtrian Warli folk art, and Kalam or Kalamezhuthu of Kerala.
The intricate and detailed motifs of these art forms are a delight for both art lovers and travelers visiting India. Here are the top 6 art forms of India that will make you want to visit these destinations right away.
Rajasthani Miniature Paintings
Miniature paintings of Rajasthan came with the Mughals and flourished under the royal patronage of the Rajputs. Artists from Persia, specializing in this style of painting came to India and stationed themselves in specially designed ateliers. Different schools of Rajasthani miniatures developed during the Mughal empire and patronized an assortment of styles. The descendants of the Persian painters still make these paintings in the different cities of Rajasthan. You can see miniature painting artists in Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and many other destinations.
The colors for the miniatures came from a variety of materials including vegetables and minerals, and sometimes even precious stones. In certain schools of Indian art, painters used real gold and silver to make the paintings. The artistes used the finest squirrel fur brushes to get the desired finesse. These intricate creations depict scenes of hunting, court rulings, and mythology. Visit an atelier on your journey through Rajasthan and see the creation of miniatures in the styles unchanged since the 16th century.
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Tanjore paintings also known as Tanjavur paintings is another traditional art of India. These are religious paintings that have a royal heritage. This style of painting evolved during the Chola empire in Tanjavur, 300 km from Chennai. The themes of this style of art consists mainly of mythology. This exquisite art richly decorates the walls of the temples of Tanjavur and nearby areas.
The use of gold leaf in the paintings is a striking feature of Tanjore paintings which makes them stand out from others. During the rule of the Cholas, one could also find the use of precious stones such as rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. Today, semi-precious stones have replaced the precious stones. However, one can still find the use of gold foil. Take home a piece created by yourself following the age-old traditions in a workshop with a painter.
Another folk-art form of India that is worth traveling for is Patachitra of Odisha. It is one of the oldest traditional arts of India and depicts mostly religious scenes. The popular themes include Lord Jagannath, Lord Krishna, the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu and the depiction of the five-headed Lord Ganesha. The term Patachitra translates to paintings made on canvas. This is because artists used sheets of cloth held together with a mixture of tamarind seeds and clay powder to make these paintings in the early days.
The artists, known as chitrakars, follow centuries-old traditions of making the canvas and the paints. The gum of the kaitha tree forms the base of the different pigments. Artists make vibrant paintings using these natural pigments. You can visit Puri or Bhubaneswar to see these chitrakars at work. These also make great souvenirs and home décor. Learn about how the artists make the natural paints and pigments. You can also listen to the artists reciting interesting stories and myths.
Warli Folk Art, Maharashtra
Travelers looking to visit Maharashtra must include Mumbai in their plans just to experience the unique Warli folk art. Created by the Warli tribe living in the northern outskirts of the metropolis of Mumbai, it became popular in the early seventies. No one has found the exact details of its origins yet. However, many people think it dates to the 10th century CE. The tribal people use Warli art to decorate the walls of their houses. These paintings depict human figures in daily life scenes. These also include celebration scenes and dancing.
Since the tribe shuns all contacts with the modern world and is not acquainted with written words, these paintings are the only mode of relaying their stories from one generation to the next. This traditional art of India closely resembles pre-historic cave paintings. In contrast to most other art forms of India, Warli art does not depict religious or mythological scenes. While in Mumbai, one can take a workshop to learn the intricacies of Warli folk art. Warli folk art is also immensely popular in pop-culture and you can see the motifs on different objects such as coasters, kettles, and bedsheets.
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The tradition of decorating the entrances to temples and homes dates back several centuries and is referred to as Kalam/Kolam, Rangoli, or Kalamezhuthu. Kalamezhuthu (Kalam) is a ritualistic traditional art of India created in temples and other sacred places in Kerala. The chosen person creates representations of deities such as Lord Ayyappa and Kali. They only use natural powders and pigments. There is a strict code of choosing the patterns and only a specific caste who creates the Kalam. You can see the making of Kalam, the related rituals, and then erasing it during the different temple festivals in Kerala.
There are no tools used in making the patterns and the artist creates them with his bare hands. The designs start from the center and then move outwards in strict precision. Creation of the Kalams happens at a prior appointed time. Once the person finishes the Kalam, the devotees chant devotional hymns accompanied by different instruments in praise of the deities. As soon as the related rituals finish, a person erases the Kalam at once. The devotees and appointed persons also place oil lamps at strategic places in the Kalams. This creates an otherworldly ambiance inside the temples.
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Madhubani Folk Art, Bihar
One of the most vibrant folk arts of India is the Madhubani paintings of Bihar. Line drawings are the typical characteristics of Madhubani paintings. Bright colors fill the spaces between the line drawings. The materials traditionally used are vegetable and mineral dyes. The tribal motifs and bright earthy colors make these paintings an integral part of the art and culture of India.
The patterns are a mix of nature, mythology, and local folklore. It is also known as Mithila Art as the women of the Mithila region of Bihar practice this form. The best way to experience this unique tribal art is through immersive workshops with local artisans. Learn the use of mineral pigments to make the dyes and the intricate methods of line drawing. Hear about the different topics of the paintings which range from religious and mythological figures to scenes from weddings and daily lives.
Whether you are an art aficionado or simply want to explore the art and culture of India, these six art forms are sure to excite your senses. Apart from being visually attractive, these are also rich in heritage and date back several centuries. Experience the traditional art of India in the company of experts in your next travel plans.