Ancient Indian art forms have somehow been snubbed by the West and Indians themselves way to long. The result- some of them are almost lost or very nearly so.
However, because of the constant efforts of individuals, designers, tribal artisans, e-commerce portals and certain NGOs looking to revive the lost culture and art forms that originated in India, a few art forms have managed to not only survive but also gain popularity and a steady footing in the global market. Indian prints, colours, handicrafts, clothes and paintings have been in high demand globally and have continuously oscillated between being traditional to evolving to be considered contemporary.
A few Indian art forms which managed to survive generations and are soon becoming a style statement include:
Originated in the Mithila region of India, this style of painting can be done with fingertips, twigs, brushes, nibs or even matchsticks using natural pigments. The colours used to make Madhubani art are extracted from plants and using these, artisans weave geometrical patterns depicting events related to celestial bodies, birth or death, festivals and different pujas, this art form has managed to subsist. Earlier these paintings were made on mud walls but now adapting to changing times, artists are creating masterpieces on cloth, paper and even canvas.
Madhubani art form has five different styles named Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna and Kohbar. While the first three styles were explored mainly by women from the upper castes depicting Gods, the other two styles were adopted by people from lower castes who through their paintings represented their daily lives. Because Madhubani has claimed global attention, there is no distinction and an artisan, irrespective of his caste, can adopt any style of painting.
Phad is an ancient form of painting which hails from Rajasthan in India. It is a religious style of scroll painting which is done on a very long piece of cloth or canvas which is more than 15 feet long known as phad. The paintings mainly portray the folk deities of the state like Pabuji and Devnarayan. The paintings are usually done with natural colours extracted from vegetables.
Initially, the Joshi families of Rajasthan were known for mastering this art form but it started dwindling because of lack of attention and buyers. Few artists like Prakash Joshi, Pradip Mukherjee and Nand Kishor Joshi have put in immense efforts to save this art form and give it global recognition. Shree Lal Joshi has also set up the “Chitrashaala” or the “Joshi Kala Kunj” where this art form is taught and young budding artists’ are nurtured.
This style of tribal art was devised by the Adivasis residing in the North Sahyadri region in Maharashtra and still continues to be practiced by the tribes there. The Warli tribe who are the pioneers of this art form choose to reject the modern ways of life and focus on infusing different elements of nature into their art. Since agriculture is the way of life for this tribe, they often portray the hardships and abundance of this occupation through this art form.
The pigments used to make the paintings are completely natural and are usually made with rice powder and water and a chewed piece of bamboo works as the brush. The growth of popularity of this art form since the 1970s can be attributed to Jivya Soma Mashe who is also known as the father of Modern Warli painting and reproduced this art form on paper and canvas. Because the art for is unique and authentic, brands like Coca-Cola chose a painting to promote togetherness and familial feelings. Since then, Warli has only gained fame worldwide.
Kalamkari also known as qalamkari is a kind of hand printing done on fabric using a tamarind pen and uses natural dyes. The name is derived from two words- ‘qalam’ which means pen and ‘kari’ which means craftmaship. Even though the art originated in Iran, two schools of this art, the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style, were founded in India over 2,500 years back. The process involves 23 steps like bleaching the fabric, softening it, hand-painting, air drying and washing, which require a great deal of precision and expertise.
Even though this art form had lost its demand, it was soon recognised during the Mughal era and continued to claim its beauty on garments. Under the Golconda period, this art form flourished in Machilipatnam, Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh and continues to be a source of income for a lot of artisans in that area. In recent times, a lot of designers have embraced and popularised kalamkari through ramp shows.
It is extremely heartening to see the revival of these and many other ancient Indian art forms in recent times. Young designers, social entrepreneurs, art enthusiasts and online businesses are not only redefining these art forms but incorporating them in our daily lifestyles. At times the colors and designs try to match the modern times whereas in most cases there is an effort to introduce the ethnic form to the modern consumer.
Written byNiharika Nandi
Niharika Nandi is a media trainee who loves exploring the fields of photography and baking simultaneously. She’s a self-proclaimed professional bathroom singer and believes that caffeine runs through her veins. This adrenaline junkie loves to pen down a million thoughts gushing through her mind at any instant and is very vocal about LGBTQ rights.