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Exploring the Origins of Warli Art: A Fascinating Journey Through History



The Warli tribe is one of the largest indigenous communities in India, with a population of over two million people. They are mainly concentrated in the Dhanu, Palghar, Raigadh, Thane and Nashik districts of Maharashtra. The Warli people have a rich cultural heritage that is deeply rooted in their art, music, and dance. Their art has been passed down from generation to generation, and it continues to thrive even in the modern world. The term ‘Warli’ is derived from ‘Waral’ which means a small piece of tilled land. The Warli art is inspired by the tribes’ coexistence with nature and the forests.



Warli Art is a tribal art mostly done by Adivasi from North Sahyadri Range in India. The most important aspect of warli painting is that it depict social life, and does not depicts mythological characters or images of deities like most of the other tribal paintings. Warli is the vivid expression of daily and social events and used by them to embellish the walls of village houses. This was the only means of transmitting folklore to a populace not acquainted with the written word.


Traditional warli painting depicts the lifestyle and culture that prevailed during that time. The warli people believed that their painting would be blessed by their tribal deity if they painted warli themes on canvas with indigenous colours and symbols, for this reason, warli paintings have been an integral part of warli people’s lives for centuries. It is believed that these paintings invoke powers of the Gods.



Warli paintings can be distinctly identified with its lack of perspective & proportion and 2-dimensional stick like figures made using geometric shapes and no facial expressions. Warli art form uses very basic graphic vocabulary: a circle, a triangle and a square. The circle and triangle come from their observation of nature; the circle representing the sun and the moon, the triangle derived from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square seems to obey a different logic and seems to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land. Dots & dashes are generally considered rays and shines of the Sun & Moon.

Warli painting is simple and linear with the maximum use of triangular shapes. As another theory, warli painting depicts energy YIN/YANG; concept having the upward facing triangle representing the Male and the downward facing triangle representing the Woman. It also represents fertility as the tribal belief revolve around the cycle of Birth and Death.



The exact origin of the Warli art paintings is debated but as it is one of the oldest paintings in India; some says it originate in 10t century AD or before. Or some says it dates to 2500 or 3000 BCE. Warli art have strong resemblance to Rock Shelters paintings of Bhimbetka (MP)


In recent years, there have been several trends in Warli art, including:


· Contemporary interpretations:

While traditional Warli art is still popular, many artists are experimenting with new techniques and styles to create contemporary interpretations of this ancient art form.


· Use of new materials:

While Warli art was traditionally created using white pigment on a dark background, many artists are now using new materials such as acrylic paints, canvas, and paper to create their art.


· Increased global popularity:

Warli art has gained popularity outside of India, with exhibitions and workshops being held in countries like the United States, Canada, and Europe.


· Digital art:

With the rise of digital art, many Warli artists are now creating digital versions of their art, using software such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.


· Social and environmental themes:

Many Warli artists are using their art to highlight social and environmental issues, such as the impact of climate change and the importance of preserving traditional cultures.


Overall, Warli art continues to evolve and adapt to changing times, while still maintaining its traditional roots and cultural significance.



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