Indian artforms - 21 traditional folk art painting styles

Discover the Rich Tapestry of Indian Art: 21 Traditional Painting Styles

Indian art and culture is a rich tapestry of diverse styles, traditions, and artforms that have evolved over thousands of years.

From ancient rock paintings and temple carvings to modern contemporary art, Indian art has always been a reflection of the country's diverse culture, history, and religious beliefs.

In this blog, we will take a look at 20 traditional Indian painting styles and artforms that make Indian art and culture unique.

1. Madhubani Painting

Madhubani painting - Traditional indian artform

Madhubani painting is a traditional artform from the Mithila region of Bihar, India.

It is characterized by its bold and vibrant colors, geometric patterns, and intricate details.

The paintings are traditionally done on the walls of homes, using natural dyes and pigments made from plants and flowers such as marigold, minerals, and even cow dung. 

There are three main themes in Madhubani art: religion, social scenes and elements of nature.

2. Kalamkari

Kalamkari art - traditional indian artform

Kalamkari is a traditional style of painting and printing fabric, characterized by its intricate and detailed hand-painted designs.

The word "kalamkari" means "pen craft," as the designs are created using a pen-like tool known as a "kalam."

Only natural dyes are used in Kalamkari, which is an ancient style of hand painting done on cotton or silk fabric with a tamarind pen.

The artform originated in Andhra Pradesh, India, and is now popular all over the country. 

Kalamkari represents Motifs like peacock, flora, and depictions from Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.

3. Warli Painting

Warli painting - traditional indian artform

Warli painting is a traditional artform from the Warli tribe of Maharashtra, India.

It is characterized by its simple and minimalistic style, with paintings typically depicting everyday life and rituals of the Warli tribe.

The paintings are done using a white pigment made from a mixture of water and rice paste, applied to walls or paper.

Warli painting is simple and linear, with maximum use of triangular shapes.

They draw inspiration from every life for their themes.

The most important aspect of the painting is that it does not depict mythological characters or images of deities, but social life such as nature and human form.

4. Pattachitra

Pattachitra - traditional indian painting style

Pattachitra is a traditional style of painting from the state of Odisha, India.

It is characterized by its intricate and detailed depiction of Hindu deities and mythological scenes, using vibrant colors and gold leaf.

The paintings are typically done on cloth or palm leaves, using natural dyes and pigments.

To obtain the white colour, sea-shells are ground, soaked and heated to obtain a milky paste.

Green is made using green leaves and stones, black is prepared by placing an earthen plate over the smoke of a burning wick which is thickened and collected. 

Pattachitra paintings often feature elaborate and ornate details, and are known for their depiction of the Hindu god Jagannath and his temple in Puri.

Krishna Leela and Lord Jagannath are important motifs.

The Pattachitra artists also paint their themes on wooden boxes, on bowls, on tussar silk, on outer shells of the coconut, and on wooden doors.

5. Phad Painting

Phad painting - traditional indian painting style

Phad painting is a traditional artform from the state of Rajasthan, India.

Phad paintings are created on hand-woven coarse cotton cloth, which is soaked overnight to thicken the threads.

It is then stiffened with starch from rice or wheat flour, stretched, dried in the sun and rubbed with a moonstone to smoothen the surface and give it a sheen.

The paintings are done using a combination of natural dyes and mineral pigments, and are traditionally done by the Bhopa community of Rajasthan.

It is characterized by its large size and narrative style, with paintings depicting the stories of the Hindu god Pabuji and other local heroes.

Phad paintings are often carried by the Bhopa during performances, and are known for their bright and vibrant colors and depiction of mythological and historical events.

6. Thangka Painting

Thangka painting - traditional indian artform

Thangka painting is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist artform, which has also been embraced by many cultures in India.

The paintings are characterized by their colorful and detailed depiction of Buddhist deities, mandalas (geometric figure with symbolic meaning that is also used as an aid in meditation), or a spiritually significant event from the life of a Buddhist master.

Thangka paintings are typically done on cotton or silk, using natural dyes and gold leaf.

They are known as important tools to depict Buddha and his teachings as well as that of other deities and bodhisattvas

7. Mughal Miniature Painting

Mughal miniature painting - traditional indian painting styles

Mughal miniature painting is a traditional style of Indian painting that developed during the Mughal Empire (1526-1857).

The paintings are characterized by their small size, detailed and intricate style, and use of vibrant colors and gold leaf.

These paintings were done on items which were perishables like paper, cloth, leaves etc.

To be considered as a miniature painting the painting has to be less than 25 square inches or less than 100 square cm.

Examples include Tutinama and Hamzanama.

They typically depict royal courts, battles, and other historical events.

8. Pichwai Painting

Pichwai painting - traditional indian artform

Pichwai painting is a traditional artform practiced in Nathdwara, Rajasthan

The Pichwai is an intricate painting that depicts theatrical scenes from Lord Krishna's life and his devotees, using bright and vibrant colors and intricate details.

Pichwai paintings are typically done on cloth or paper, using natural dyes and pigments using a natural brush made from animal hair or cotton threads.

Pichwai paintings are mainly made to hang in Hindu temples of the Pushti Marg devotional tradition, especially the Shrinathji temple in Nathdwara built around 1672.

9. Rajput Painting

Rajput painting - traditional indian painting artform

Rajput painting is a traditional style of Indian painting that developed in the Rajput courts of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

It started originating in Bundi around the late 16th century and reflected heavy Mughal influence.

Rajasthani rajput painting - indian traditional artform

The paintings are characterized by their use of bright and vibrant colors, intricate details, and depiction of Hindu deities and courtly life.

10. Gond Painting

Gond painting - traditional indian artform

Gond painting is a traditional artform from the Gond tribal community of Madhya Pradesh, India.

It is characterized by its use of bright and vibrant colors, geometric patterns, and depiction of nature and everyday life. 

Majorly inspired from nature as art is everywhere in nature.

The use of vivid colours such as white, red, blue, and yellow to portray horses, elephants, tigers, birds, gods, men, and everyday objects is one of the most remarkable elements of Gond paintings.

Objects like charcoal, coloured dirt, plant sap, leaves, and even cow dung are used to create the colours.

Gond paintings are typically done on walls, using natural dyes and pigments.

11. Kangra Painting

Traditional indian Kangra painting

Kangra painting is a traditional style of Indian painting that originated in the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh.

The paintings are characterized by their use of delicate and intricate details, soft pastel colors, and depiction of nature and everyday life.

The medium used was water colour generally red, yellow and blue (made of mineral and vegetable extracts), on small bits of paper or cloth.

The recurring theme of Kangra painting whether it portrays one of the six seasons or modes of music, Radha and Krishana or Siva and Parvati is the love of man for woman and of woman for man

12. Tanjore Painting

Tanjore painting - traditional indian artform

Tanjore painting is a traditional artform from the city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India.

It is characterized by its use of gold leaf, vibrant colors, and intricate details.

It is the only painting to have emboss on it. That is, the painting has areas that are elevated from the surface. 

Tanjore paintings typically depict Hindu deities, and are done on wood, using natural dyes and pigments.

13. Mysore Painting

Mysore painting - traditional indian painting styles

Mysore painting is a traditional style of Indian painting that originated in the city of Mysore in Karnataka.

The paintings are characterized by their use of gold leaf, vibrant colors, and intricate details.

Mysore paintings typically depict Hindu deities, and are done on paper or silk, using natural dyes and pigments.

More than mere decorative pieces, the paintings are designed to inspire feelings of devotion and humility in the viewer.

14. Paubha Painting

Paubha painting - traditional indian artform

Paubha painting is a traditional artform from the state of Nepal, which has also been embraced by many cultures in India.

The paintings are characterized by their use of bright and vibrant colors, intricate details, and depiction of Buddhist deities and spiritual symbols.

Paubha paintings are typically done on cotton or silk, using natural dyes and gold leaf.

15. Kalighat Painting

Kalighat painting of kali maa - traditional indian artform

Kalighat painting is a traditional style of Indian painting that developed in the Kalighat area of Kolkata, West Bengal.

The paintings are characterized by their use of bright and vibrant colors, simple and naive style, and depiction of everyday life and cultural traditions.

Kalighat paintings often feature Hindu deities and mythological scenes, as well as social and cultural events.

The paintings are traditionally done on paper, using natural dyes and pigments, and are known for their bold and expressive style.

Some of these colours were made of indigenous ingredients.

For example, yellow was produced from the Turmeric root, blue was made from petals of Aparajita flower, and black was produced from common soot by burning an oil lamp under a pot.

Silver and golden colours were also used for ornamentation.

Kalighat painting is considered an important part of the cultural heritage of Kolkata, and is still actively practiced today.

16. Pithora Painting

Pithora painting - traditional indian artform

Pithora painting is a traditional artform from the state of Gujarat, India.

It is a form of mural painting, typically done on the walls of homes and temples.

These wall murals are created as offerings to Pithora, the God of food grains.

They are typically done by members of the Bhil tribal community, and are considered to bring good luck and prosperity to the home or temple.

They are traditionally done to seek blessings before a special occasion such as a wedding, the birth of a child or a festival.

Pithora paintings are known for their bright and vibrant colors, and are often created using natural dyes and pigments.

17. Basholi Painting

Basholi painting - traditional indian artform

Basholi painting is a traditional style of Indian painting that originated in the Basholi region of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is a fusion of Hindu mythology, Mughal miniature techniques and folk art of the local hills, evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries as a distinctive style of painting.

The paintings are characterized by their use of bright and vibrant colors, intricate details, and depiction of nature, Hindu deities, and cultural traditions.

They often feature gold leaf and elaborate details, and are known for their depiction of mythological and devotional scenes

Basholi painting is considered an important part of the cultural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir, and is still actively practiced today.

18. Aipan Painting

Aipan painting of ganesh ji - indian artform

Aipan painting is a traditional artform from the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, India.

It is a form of floor painting, typically done

on the threshold of homes to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.

Indian traditional Aipan painting

Aipan paintings are characterized by their use of bright and vibrant colors and geometric patterns, and often depict nature, cultural symbols, and Hindu deities.

Aipan paintings are traditionally done using natural dyes and pigments, and are considered an important part of the cultural heritage of the Kumaon region.

19. Bagh Printing

Bagh printing - traditional indian artform

Bagh printing is a traditional artform from the Bagh region of Madhya Pradesh, India.

It is a form of block printing, in which designs are carved onto wooden blocks and then used to print patterns onto fabric.

Bagh printing is characterized by its use of bright and vibrant colors, and often depicts nature, animals, and cultural traditions.

20. Chitrakathi

Traditional indian Chitrakathi painting

Chitrakathi is a traditional artform from the state of Maharashtra, India.

It is a form of storytelling through painted illustrations, typically accompanied by narrations.

The term Chitrakathi is the conjunction of two words: chitra meaning picture and katha meaning story.

With this application, a Chitrakathi is the one who narrates stories with a visual aid. Thereby, one can imagine the rich tradition behind this art.

Chitrakathi paintings are characterized by their use of vibrant colors and simple and naive style, and often depict mythological and folk tales.

Chitrakathi has a long history in India, and is still actively practiced by some communities today.

21. Cheriyal scroll painting

Cheriyal scroll painting - traditional indian artform

Cheriyal scroll painting is a traditional artform from the Cheriyal village in Telangana, India.

It is a form of narrative painting, typically done on long scrolls of paper or fabric.

Cheriyal scroll paintings are characterized by their use of bright and vibrant colors and simple and naive style, and depict mythological and folk tales as well as cultural and social events.

Cheriyal scroll paintings are traditionally done using natural dyes and pigments, and are considered an important part of the cultural heritage of the Cheriyal village.

The scrolls are often used as aids for storytelling and performances, and are an important part of the local oral tradition.

Conclusion

Traditional Indian painting styles are a testament to the vibrant and diverse culture of India.

From Madhubani and Kalamkari to Warli and Pattachitra, these artforms showcase the artistic traditions, spiritual beliefs, and everyday life of the country.

Whether you are an art enthusiast, collector, or simply looking to learn more about Indian culture, exploring these traditional painting styles is a fascinating and rewarding journey.

We would love to hear your thoughts on traditional Indian painting styles!

Have you had the opportunity to see these artforms in person, or perhaps even try your hand at creating your own?

Share your experiences and insights with us in the comments below.

Your perspective and contribution can help enrich the conversation and inspire others to learn more about these amazing and unique artforms.

If you are inspired to learn more about traditional Indian painting styles, there are many resources available to help you get started.

Consider visiting museums, art galleries, and cultural centers to see examples of these artforms in person.

You can also seek out local artisans and communities who practice these styles, or take classes or workshops to learn more about the techniques and materials used.

And of course, don't forget to support these talented artists by purchasing their beautiful and unique works of art.

FAQs 

  1. What are some common themes in traditional Indian painting styles?

Traditional Indian painting styles often depict Hindu deities and mythological scenes, as well as everyday life and cultural traditions.

Nature and spiritual symbols are also common themes.

  1. What materials and techniques are used in traditional Indian painting styles?

Traditional Indian painting styles often use natural dyes and pigments made from plants, minerals, and even cow dung.

Gold leaf is also often used. Techniques can vary, but may include hand-painting, printing, and stenciling.

  1. Are traditional Indian painting styles still practiced today?

Many traditional Indian painting styles are still actively practiced today, and are often passed down through generations within families or communities.

These styles have also been adapted and incorporated into modern contemporary art.

  1. Where can I see examples of traditional Indian painting styles?

Traditional Indian painting styles can be found in museums, art galleries, and cultural centers across India.

They can also be purchased from artisans and online marketplaces.

  1. How can I learn more about traditional Indian painting styles?

There are many resources available for learning more about traditional Indian painting styles, including books, online articles, workshops, and classes.

It may also be helpful to seek out local artisans and communities who practice these styles.

  1. How do traditional Indian painting styles differ from other styles of painting?

Traditional Indian painting styles are often characterized by their use of bright and vibrant colors, intricate details, and depiction of cultural and spiritual themes.

They may also utilize unique materials and techniques, such as natural dyes and pigments, gold leaf, and hand-painting.

  1. How have traditional Indian painting styles evolved over time?

Traditional Indian painting styles have evolved over time, influenced by cultural, historical, and artistic factors.

Some styles, such as Madhubani painting and Warli painting, have ancient roots, while others, such as Mughal miniature painting, developed more recently.

Many styles have also been adapted and incorporated into modern contemporary art.

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