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Living Traditions Tribal and Folk Paintings of India

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Item Code: HAI159
Publisher: Centre for Cultural Resources and Training
Language: English
Edition: 2017
Pages: 120
Other Details 12.00 X 10.00 inch
Weight 990 gm
Book Description
About The Book

Living traditions are an essential and a visible determinant of a country's cultural identity. An average Indian is conditioned both by participation and observation from a young age into many traditional art forms, figures and ritual drawings. CCRT is in the forefront to promote and disseminate knowledge about Indian Art and Culture. It is important for young people to grow up with an understanding for their own culture as that of others. The present book aims to create an awareness and appreciation about the rich living traditions of tribal and folk paintings of India. India has a myriad painting traditions. Of these some well known ones have been covered. To name a few, Chitrakathi of Maharashtra, Phad tradition of Rajasthan, Jadupatua tradition of Bengal and Bihar are based on narrative traditions as evident from the storyteller's scrolls. Nathdwara painting of Rajasthan, Patachitras of Odisha, Kalighat of West Bengal and Mata-ni-pachedi of Gujarat are linked to a central deity and faith. These paintings are embedded with aesthetic, spiritual, ecological, social as well as recreational value. Each painting genre moulds itself into a similar format. Efforts have been made that for each genre its origin, necessary background information, theme, methods and materials are covered.


India has an astonishingly rich variety of painting traditions. This publication is an attempt to create awareness about tribal and folk paintings of India and the significant role that they play in the day-to-day lives of tribal and rural people.

The Indian way of life is replete with traditions, rituals, customs, beliefs and a wide panorama of gods and goddesses. It has given birth to a rich tapestry of tribal and folk paintings. The genesis of a painting could be either religious or based on ancient folk wisdom. These art forms not only bring out the religio-aesthetic aspirations of the people, but also reflect their innate concern for their surroundings. Each painting echoes the aesthetic, cultural and spiritual sensibility of a region. We see an enormous diversity in cultural manifestation, tradition, raw material, technique and application that represents each region and district of India. The themes of these paintings remain related to nature, spirituality, local folklore and legends.

These paintings enrich the daily lives of these communities and provide livelihood for enterprising artists. Birth and death, marriage and adolescence, harvest and onset of monsoons, poornima (full moon) and amavas (new moon), gods and goddesses are the themes that find expression in this creative medium. Communal life and close proximity with neighbours and, of course, family give creative expression to the joys and sorrows of life.

The richness of India as a civilization is mirrored in these paintings that symbolise the latent artistic talent of ordinary people who have not received any formal training in this discipline. It is a spontaneous outpouring of ingenuity and self-expression. Each art form has an aura and uniqueness which imparts it an unmatched quality. In this art form we see the world from the eyes of perpetual childhood.

Wall paintings are also a part of everyday ritual and serve as a channel of telling stories or of glorifying local heroes. They embellish the walls of homes and rooms, beautify and edify exterior and interior spaces of homes in a purposeful manner. Even today there are villages in India where everybody participates in such tribal paintings and is thus an artist.

In his book, "Introduction to Indian Art", Ananda K. Coomaraswamy says, in India art was an integral quality inhering in all activities, entertained by all in their daily environment and produced by all in proportion to the vitality (not the kind) of their activity"


Art is essentially an expression of human creativity - a medium to communicate emotions and feelings. It takes the form of paintings, sculpture, music, dance, literature etc. Prehistoric man painted on the walls of caves, played wind instruments, carved sculptures out of bones and danced around fire, etched figures and symbols on rock to give expression to his creativity and his daily life.

The living traditions of any country are its cultural heritage, which constantly evolves, adapts and reinvents itself. India has the largest number of art forms anywhere in the world, mainly because its cultural heritage is rich, diverse and vibrant. In this publication, we have explored tribal and folk paintings in various parts of the country as part of our living traditions since pre-historic times to now.

Tribal people live in less accessible parts of the country, not on the open plains or along the great rivers. They are bonded to each other by rituals, their special ways of celebrating ceremonies at the time of birth, marriage, and also the first haircut or the piercing of the earlobes and so on. These mark the fundamental identity of the tribe and clan. Such auspicious occasions are earmarked by tribal and folk paintings. Tribal and folk paintings are not naturalistic but pictorial graphic representations (pictorial sign or symbol) of rituals, ceremonies and daily activities.

Many other countries also have tribal and folk art being practised as a living heritage. The indigenous visual art form created by the adivasis, tribes and natives of India on various surfaces such as walls, floors, cloth, wood and paper are called Indian tribal painting. Tribal art is restricted to a single tribe whereas folk art may be practised by various people belonging to a large cross-section of society. The folk art of India does not belong to a particular period. It is a collective expression of rural Indian people driven by a desire to fulfil their social and emotional needs. The famous artist Henry Moore decleared that "folk art is something made by people with a direct and immediate response to life and for that matter rural art was not a matter of arithmetical calculation and academism, but a channel for expressing powerful beliefs, hopes and fears".

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