Folk Paintings – UPSC Notes – Art and Culture

Throughout our history, our nation has served as a custodian of native wisdom, a heritage passed down through successive generations. Artists in each era have skillfully crafted remarkable works using the materials and technologies available to them. Collectively known as Folk arts, these folk paintings have endured since time immemorial. In the following section, we will explore notable examples of folk art specifically within the realm of paintings.

Folk Paintings – Kalighat Painting

  • Origin: Kalighat Painting originated in the 19th century in West Bengal, India, in the vicinity of Kalighat Kali Temple in Calcutta.
  • Early Focus: Initially centered around the depiction of Hindu gods and mythological characters.
  • Evolution: Over time, Kalighat paintings evolved to encompass a diverse range of subjects, including scenes from everyday life.
  • Noteworthy Themes: The art form explored themes related to the life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and contemporary events such as crime.
  • Secular Portrayals: Artists played a role in the Independence movement by depicting historical figures like Rani Lakshmibai and Duldul (the famous horse of Imam Hussain of Karbala).
  • Artistic Characteristics: Characterized by the use of watercolors on mill paper, with brushes made of calf and squirrel hair.
  • Influence: These paintings, with their simplicity yet impact, could easily be reproduced through lithography, influencing even modern artists like the late Jamini Roy.
Folk Paintings - Kalighat Paintings
Folk Paintings – Kalighat Paintings

The figure provided serves as an example of a typical Kalighat painting, showcasing the rich and diverse nature of Indian art.

Folk Paintings – Kalamkari Painting

  • Origin: Kalamkari is a distinctive type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile with roots in Isfahan, Iran, and production in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Natural Dyes: Notably, only natural dyes are employed in the intricate process of Kalamkari, involving twenty-three meticulous steps.
  • Tools and Techniques: Artists utilize a bamboo or date palm stick, pointed at one end, featuring a bundle of fine hair at the pointed end, serving as a brush or pen for creating design contours.
  • Styles:
    • Srikalahasti Style: One of the two distinctive Kalamkari styles in India, known for flourishing in temples and focusing on creating unique religious identities. It finds expression on scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners, and depictions of deities and scenes from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Purana.
    • Machilipatnam Style: The second style, with its own unique characteristics and influences.
  • Cultural Significance: Kalamkari’s presence in temples and its depiction of religious narratives contribute to its cultural and artistic significance.
  • Revival and Popularization: The present status of this art style is attributed to Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the inaugural chairperson of the All India Handicrafts Board, who played a pivotal role in popularizing Kalamkari.
Folk Paintings - Kalamkari Painting
Folk Paintings – Kalamkari Painting

Folk Paintings – Madhubani Paintings or Mithila Paintings

  • Origin: The name Madhubani or Mithila paintings is derived from Mithila, the ancient Videha, and the birthplace of Sita.
  • Tradition: For centuries, women in this region have adorned the walls of their mud houses with figures and designs, particularly during ceremonial occasions, notably weddings.
  • Historical Origin: The art form is believed to have originated during the marriage of Princess Sita to Lord Rama.
  • Painting Locations:
    • Outer Courtyards: These paintings, characterized by bright colors, are predominantly found in three areas of the house—the central or outer courtyards, the eastern part housing the Kuladevi (usually Kali), and a room in the southern part with significant images.
    • Inner Verandah: The family shrine or devasthana, along with griha devatas and kula devatas, is painted in the inner verandah.
    • Kohbar Ghar: The most extraordinary and colorful paintings are in the kohbar ghar or inner room, featuring representations of kohbar, lotus, and deities on freshly plastered walls.
  • Commercial Adaptation: In recent times, Madhubani paintings have extended to various surfaces such as fabric, paper, and pots for commercial purposes.
  • Artistic Elements:
    • Symbolism: Various armed gods, animals, and depictions of women at work are vividly portrayed, often with symbolic intent representing love, passion, fertility, eternity, well-being, and prosperity.
    • Nature Elements: Artists do not leave empty spaces, filling the entire space decoratively with elements from nature like birds, flowers, animals, fish, snakes, the Sun, and the moon, each carrying symbolic significance.
  • Techniques: Women use bamboo twigs with attached cotton swabs, rice straw, or fiber for painting. In the past, colors were derived from mineral stones and organic materials such as phalsa and kusum flowers, bilwa leaves, kajal, and turmeric.
Folk Paintings - Madhubani Painting or Mithila Painting
Folk Paintings – Madhubani Painting or Mithila Painting

Folk Paintings – Warli Paintings

  • The Warli community resides along the west coast of Northern Maharashtra, around the north Sahyadri range.
  • Chowk Painting:
    • Created by married women and central to their culture, especially marking special occasions.
    • Associated with rituals of marriage, fertility, harvest, and the new season of sowing.
    • Dominated by the figure of the mother goddess, Palaghat, worshipped as the goddess of fertility and representing the corn goddess, Kansari.
    • The cord goddess is enclosed in a small square frame decorated with ‘pointed’ chevrons symbolizing Hariyali Deva, the God of Plants.
    • Scenes of everyday life, including hunting, fishing, farming, dancing, and mythological stories of animals, surround the central motif of Palaghat.
  • Medium and Technique:
    • Traditionally painted with rice flour on earth-colored walls of their homes.
    • Utilizes a basic graphic vocabulary of a circle, triangle, and square, forming rudimentary wall paintings that are monosyllabic in nature.
    • Circle and Triangle: Derived from observations of nature, where the circle represents the sun and the moon, while the triangle depicts mountains and conical trees.
Folk Paintings -  Warli Painting
Folk Paintings – Warli Painting

Folk Paintings – Pattachitra Painting

  • Originating in the state of Odisha, Pattachitra is a renowned form of folk painting characterized by several features:
  • A picture painted on a piece of cloth.
  • Closely tied to the cult of Shri Jagannath and temple traditions in Puri.
  • Believed to have originated as early as the 12th century.
  • Popular Themes:
    • Thia Badhia: Depiction of the temple of Jagannath.
    • Krishna Lila: Enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child.
    • Dasabatara Patti: The ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
    • Panchamukhi: Depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity.
    • Themes serve as the essence of the art form, conceptualizing the meaning of the paintings.
  • Materials:
    • Utilizes natural substances for the majority of the materials.
  • Disciplined Art Form:
    • Follows a set of rules and restrictions.
    • A floral border is a mandatory element around the paintings.
    • Usage of natural colors is imperative.
    • Executed primarily in profile with elongated eyes.
    • Prominent solid shades depict stark emotional expressions with great detail.
  • Evolution:
    • Over the years, the art form has evolved, witnessing discernible changes.
    • Chitrakars have expanded to paint on palm leaves and Tussar silk, creating wall hangings and showpieces.
Folk Paintings – Pattachitra Painting

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Deccan Paintings

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Folk Paintings:

  1. What is the famous folk art painting of India?
    • Answer: Kalamkari paintings are a famous folk art form in India, known for hand-painted or block-printed cotton textiles. They are particularly popular in Machilipatnam of Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh.
  2. What is traditional painting in India?
    • Answer: Warli paintings, an ancient Indian art form dating back 2500 years, are a traditional painting style. Originating in the Thane and Nasik areas of Maharashtra, Warli paintings depict the daily activities and social rituals of the local tribe.
  3. Which painting is very famous in India?
    • Answer: “Shakuntala” by Raja Ravi Varma is one of the most iconic paintings in India. Raja Ravi Varma, a celebrated artist, depicted Shakuntala, a character from the Mahabharata, in this masterpiece.
  4. What is the folk style of painting?
    • Answer: Folk style paintings are created by local people and closely resemble the style of rock paintings. These artworks depict humans, deities, animals, and nature, reflecting the cultural traditions of the community.
  5. What are 10 Indian folk arts?
    • Answer: Some notable Indian folk arts include Phad, Gond, Kalamkari, Madhubani, Warli, Cheriyal Scrolls, Kalighat, and Patachitra.
  6. Who is the father of folk art?
    • Answer: Jamini Roy is often regarded as the father of folk art in India. He played a pivotal role in the folk renaissance, creating an alternative vision of modern Indian identity through his art.
  7. Who is the father of Indian painting?
    • Answer: Raja Ravi Varma is referred to as the “father of modern Indian art.” He gained prominence for his paintings and prints that skillfully blended Indian subjects with European techniques.
  8. What is the oldest painting in India?
    • Answer: The Bhimbetka cave paintings, dating back around 30,000 years, represent the oldest known Indian paintings. These prehistoric artworks depict animals such as bison, bears, and tigers.
  9. Who made the first painting in India?
    • Answer: The oldest known paintings in India, approximately 40,000 years old, were created by early humans and Neanderthals. Painted using red ochre and black pigment, these artworks depict common animals like horses, rhinos, and lions.

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