In the remotest corners of India one finds the most unadulterated expressions of Art. For years scholars engaged in the study of anthropology have dismissed these forms of self-expression as “primitive” and “inconsequential”, but one has to only see Folk Paintings of India to be dazzled by their simplistic brilliance. No wonder that, today, what the women of Madhubani, Bihar, have been practicing daily without any fanfare, is such a celebrated art form. Indian Folk Paintings are the toast of the world art circuit.
The color and the vivacity of these traditional art forms lend them the quaint charm that very few other art forms can aspire for. Indeed one can safely say that the ethnic Indian sensibilities are best represented through the Folk Paintings.
The Madhubani paintings of Bihar, the Pata paintings of Orissa and the Nirmal paintings of Andhra Pradesh are only a few samples of the vast gallery of Indian Folk Paintings. The Indian Hindu epics are the primary source of inspiration for the Indian Folk Paintings.
The discovery of Indian Folk Paintings
It is commonly said that one refuses to see the beauty of ones own yard until one sees all there is to see in this world. So is the story of Indian Folk Paintings, this neglected art form was discovered by Indian scholars as late as the beginning of the 20 th Century. With the rise of Modern Art in Europe and its irreverence towards form and structure, Indian began to take notice of the vibrant motives that had adorned their own walls and courtyard for centuries. The simplicity that the proponents of Modern Art so keenly aspired for was so effortlessly achieved in Indian Folk Painting. Thus, Indian Folk Painting was now recognized for its true artistic value.
Women of the Madhubani village of Bihar maintain a strange matriarchal tradition , they paint figures from nature and myth on household and village walls to mark the seasonal festivals, for special events of the life-cycle, and when marriages are being arranged they prepare intricately designed wedding proposals , and the technique of painting is safely and zealously guarded by the women of this village, for it is to be passed on by a mother to her daughter. Women of this village have been practicing this art form for centuries but it came to the forefront only in the 1960s, when a drought hit the area and people had to think of an alternative non agricultural source of earning. Selling these traditional paintings on handmade paper was the best alternative. Today they are one of the most celebrated Folk Arts of the world.
The temple of Jagannath Puri in Orissa is a source of livelihood for many. For centuries peddlers, artists and food vendors have thronged the by lanes of Puri in search of a livelihood. Amongst them were the Pata Painters, who were commissioned by one of the Ganga Kings in the 12 th century, to popularize the cult of Jagannath amongst the millions who visited the temple every year.
The themes of these paintings were inspired by the Bhakti Movement (a cult religious movement of those times). Radha Kishna and Jagannath are lovingly depicted in bold colors. The Pata Painting are also practiced on different media .The most popular items are Ganjapa playing cards, Masks, Toys of Jagannath, Balabhdra, Subhadra and miniature of Jagannath temple.
Nirmal is a small town in Andhra Pradesh, it is famous for its wooden works and glazed paintings. The paintings in bold colours derive their name from the village and are rich in variety and theme. The themes are generally from the epics - Ramayan and Mahabharata. The medium used is oil.
The above-mentioned genres are just a few samples from the treasure trove called Indian Folk Paintings. Its will be virtually impossible to categorize each and every sample of Indian folk painting. For every time a motif is drawn in a courtyard or a wall of an Indian house, the tradition of Indian Folk Painting gets a new meaning.