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Type: Tribal Art
Striking Feature: Typical Human Figures
Colour Used: Only White
Depict: Social Life

Tribal art, Warli is the vivid expression of daily and social events of the Warli tribe of Maharashtra. A form of wall painting is the typical human figures, which are the main striking features of this painting.

A Tribal Influence

Maharashtra is known for its Warli folk paintings. Warli is the name of the largest tribe found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai , in Western India. Despite being in such close proximity of the largest metropolis in India, Warli tribesmen shun all influences of modern urbanization. Warli Art was first discovered in the early seventies. While there are no records of the exact origins of this art, its roots may be traced to as early as the 10th century A.D. This art form is simple in comparison to the vibrant paintings from Madhubani.

The Making Of Warli

These tribal paintings of Maharashtra are traditionally done in the homes of the Warlis. Painted white on mud walls, they are pretty close to pre-historic cave paintings in execution and usually depict hunting, dancing, sowing and harvesting scenes. The only colour used in creating Warli paintings is white, with occasional dots in red and yellow. This colour is obtained from grounding rice into white powder.

Portraying The Society

Women are mainly engaged in the creation of these paintings. These paintings do not depict mythological characters or images of deities, but depict social life. Images of human beings and animals, along with scenes from daily life are created in a loose rhythmic pattern.


These themes are highly repetitive and symbolic. Many of the Warli paintings that represent Palghat, the marriage god, often include a horse used by the bride and groom. The horse is symbolic of something that this poor community can ill-afford. The painting is sacred and without it, the marriage cannot take place. These painting also serve social and religious aspirations of the local people. It is believed that these paintings invoke powers of the Gods.

In Warli paintings it is rare to see a straight line. A series of dots and dashes make one line. The artists have recently started to draw straight lines in their paintings. These days, even young men have taken to painting and they are often done on paper incorporating traditional decorative Warli motifs with modern elements as well such as the bicycle, etc. Warli paintings on paper have become very popular and are now sold all over India. Today they are into a marketable commodity when the Indian Handicrafts and Handlooms Board provided the poor Warlis with brown paper and white paint.

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