Indian folk art painting is a tradition that is as old as its trees and rivers and hills and humans. From time immemorial people or common 'folk' have expressed themselves through the medium of painting. Images have been sketched on pots and pans, on walls of village houses, on dried leaves and later on clothes and paper. Executed in almost all possible ways, painting has been an integral part of Indian civilization. Folk paintings happen to be the most instinctive human expressions, evolving out of a mimetic urge and decorative purpose. Beautifying the world around and reaching out to the heavens above have been the motivating forces behind the tradition of Indian folk paintings.
Started as cave paintings of prehistoric period, Folk Painting continues to be a living tradition. Contemporary society has unearthed this immense treasure of folk paintings that was shrouded in anonymity and neglect. Warli paintings, Madhubani paintings, Patachitra and other forms of traditional Indian folk art are internationally acclaimed possessions today. Guided by no formal school, bound by no orthodox modus operandi, folk painting grows out of life and is sustained by life. Religious rituals, domestic beautification, familial celebrations, seasonal festivals are some of the inspirations behind the rise and growth of folk paintings in India.
Gods and Goddesses, mythical figures, legendary heroes and glimpses of common man's life are the principal themes of folk paintings. Earthen colours were used in traditional folk paintings though currently synthetic colours are also in use. Usually the finery of folk painting is passed from one generation to the other.
People belonging to a particular community assimilate the aesthetic and symbolic essence consciously or at times unconsciously by simply living in the milieu where the art is practiced.
From the vibrant colours of Patachitras to the monochromic simplicity of Warlis, folk painting in India has multidimensional facets. Form, colour, shape, and expression vary widely from region to region. However, the painting style and themes of particular regions have defied time and remained astonishingly static through the ages. This strong rooted nature of folk paintings that mocks the bending sickle of time can be traced back to its mythic archetypal nature. People vary largely in their opinion about the desired nature of folk art - should it adapt itself to modernity or should it rather churn out of traditional imagery?
There is much debate among art critics and art historians regarding folk art as a repository of traditional wisdom. While some of them rebuke traditional Indian folk paintings as simply being the relics of a 'hoary past', others hail it as the site of our spiritual mooring that draws heavily from the sacred well of deep knowledge. Pushing the endless debates to the oblivion, one can simply enjoy the exquisite creations for the very act of creation is a profound performance of devotion. It is a being and also a becoming. A different dimension should be carved out where Indian Folk Art should be seen only as a part of India's rich culture that is very much living and still an integral part of Indian folk identity.