Being culturally diverse and distinct, an assortment of art styles and forms have evolved over the years in India. Each of which is unique, inimitable and revered in its own way.
An understanding of the origins and history behind these traditional art forms makes them even more aesthetically pleasing.
Passed down from one generation to another, traditional Indian art is still alive in many parts of the country, with many finding a place in the world galleries and museums.
Here’s a list of 10 famous traditional Indian art forms which have survived generations:
This popular Indian art form finds its origin in the village named ‘Madhubani’ in Bihar.
King Janakraj, father of Sita wanted to capture the moments of her daughter’s wedding, hence this art style came to be known as Mithila Paintings.
This art form was primarily used by women to decorate the walls and doors of their homes to seek blessings of God for peace and prosperity. Hence, the theme of Madhubani paintings predominantly revolves around mythology, Hindu Gods, flora, fauna, and various royal court scenarios.
Characterized by geometric patterns, Madhubani art has gradually found its way from the mudwalls of Bihar to international art galleries.
Literally meaning ‘pen-art, this ancient style of painting originated in Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
Kalamkari painting is done on fabric with an organic pen, generally using natural dyes and involves more than twenty tedious steps of dyeing, bleaching, hand painting, block-printing and more.
This art form was primarily used to narrate tales of Hindu mythology and hence, the motifs drawn in this art form include flora (flowers), fauna (peacock), paisleys, and divine characters of Hindu Epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Nowadays, this art is done on ethnic clothing particularly on cotton or silk sarees and is quite sought after worldwide.
Warli is a nearly 400-year-old style of tribal art and has its origins in the Warli region of Maharashtra.
These ritualistic paintings were painted mostly by the Warli tribal women to celebrate festive occasions such as weddings, harvest, birth.
It mainly depicts everyday life activities like hunting, drawing water from a well, fishing, dancing, etc. through numerous shapes formed using circles, triangles, and squares.
The use of a circle and two triangles to depict human shape is what makes this style most interesting and different. Usually, red ochre or dark background is used in this art form, with all the shapes created in white.
Initially painted on the walls of the houses, this folk art has gained immense popularity and is widely commercialized.
Today, this distinctive style is painted on clothes, home furnishings, decor, etc. which people find quite trendy and voguish.
Tanjore paintings originated in 1600 A.D. in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu.
These are panel painting done on wooden planks with the predominant theme being Hindu Gods and Goddesses, depicting devotion.
What sets this art form apart is the use of vibrant colours, rich surfaces, and embellishments such as gold foil adding a surreal look.
Later, this painting style form was adapted onto fabrics especially South Indian silk textiles.
Originating in the fifth century, Pattachitra or Patachitra is a traditional cloth-based scroll painting from Odisha and West Bengal.
This art form is well-known for its intricate details with sharp angular bold lines and floral borders depicting Hindu mythological narratives and folktales.
The main themes of this style have always been inspired by Lord Jagannath and the Vaishnava sect. You can find many Pattachitra paintings representing stories of Lord Jagannath, the ten incarnations of Vishnu, and many more.
This painting style originated during the Mughal era around the 16th century.
These paintings were deeply influenced by the Persian art style.
These are very colorful paintings that are small in size but is characterized by intricate brushwork details and sharp expressions. These humans are portrayed with large eyes, a pointed nose, and a slim waist, wherein men are always seen with a turban.
Today, this folk art is popularly practiced in Rajasthan.
Gondi tribe in Madhya Pradesh created this bold and vibrant art form depicting primarily the flora and fauna, reflecting their deep connection with nature.
This art form is created out of carefully drawn lines and dots.
Characterized by a sense of belonging with environment, these paintings are mostly an expression of religious sentiments and daily life activities.
Jangarh Singh Shyam was the famous Gond artist who brought fame to this tribal folk art.
Phad find its roots in the city of Rajasthan.
It is a religious form of scroll painting depicting folk deities Pabuji or Devnarayan. This painting is traditionally done on 15-30 feet long canvas or cloth depicting the running narrative of the lives and heroic deeds of folk deities.
This art form was revolutionized by Shree Lal Joshi about forty years ago who also opened a school for everyone to learn this style.
Cheriyal art style from Telangana is about 400-year-old.
It is a part of the Nakashi art form and is characterised by bright colors sourced from natural materials such as indigo, seashells, tamarind seeds on a khadi canvas.
Cheriyal Scrolls comprised about 50 panels narrating tales from religious texts, Puranas, Epics and rural life. Traditionally, it was used as a tool for educating the villagers.
This art form has gradually evolved over time, from scrolls to utility items such as key chains, pen holders, wall decor, masks and more.
Kalighat is a modern art painting style, it originated in the 19th century West Bengal. The art was characterized by flawless brush strokes and bold drawings.
In its earliest form, these paintings were done on cloth, pattas and paper scrolls depicting Gods, Goddesses, and mythological characters including Rama-Sita, Shiva and more.
Later, Kalighat paintings were used to feature social and civil themes like crime, the evolving role of men and women in the society, freedom struggle, heroes of the struggle including Rani Lakshmi Bai and Tipu Sultan.
It is one of the most well-recognized forms of Indian art that rose to fame globally. Besides being an art form, now it is also used as a modern motif in the creation of fashionable ethnic wear.