Visual Art

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Deccan Footprints

Indian online contemporary and folk art gallery Deccan Footprints was established in 2012 by Manvee Vaid with the aim of sharing the work of Indian contemporary and folk artists directly with the world, cutting out the need for physical gallery space. For Folk Ark's purposes, Manvee's collection of folk art works by Bhil, Gond, Madhubani, Patua and Warli people is of most interest, and is what you'll see on Deccan Footprints' profile page. From their website, some fascinating explanations of the locations and differing tribal traditions of these cultures are below. Welcome Deccan Footprints!



The Bhils are the second largest tribal community of India residing in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Some of the Bhils trace their ancestry to Eklavya, who was more skilled as an archer than Arjuna, the hero of Mahabharata. Some scholars have said that Valmiki, who chronicled the Ramayana was actually a Bhil, Valia.

The rich cultural tradition of the Bhils are manifested in their rituals, their songs and dances, their community deities, tattoos, myths, community art and lore. Everything connected with the Bhil life is painted — the Sun, the Moon, the animals, trees, insects, rivers, fields, mythological figures, and their gods. The Bhils, like all adivasis, live close to nature. 



The Gonds are the largest Adivasi Community in India and are Dravidians whose origins can be traced to the pre-Aryan era. They are mainly found in Madhya Pradesh and its surrounding States. The word Gond comes from Kond, which means green mountains in the Dravidian idiom. The Gond called themselves Koi or Koiture.Their language is related to Telegu and other Dravidian languages. About half of Gonds speak Gondi languages, while the rest speak Indo-Aryan languages including Hindi.

The Gonds traditionally painted on mud walls of their houses. Starting in the early 1980s, certain talented Pardhan Gonds who traditionally serve as professional bardic priests began transforming their ritual performing arts into a new tradition of figurative and narrative visual art: using a variety of modern media (including acrylic paintings on canvas, ink drawings on paper, silkscreen prints, and animated film) they have created unprecedented depictions of their natural and mythological worlds, traditional songs and oral histories. 



Madhubani, which literal translates into Forest of Honey, is a small village in northern Bihar.The origins of Madhubani (or Mithila) art are shrouded in antiquity. Tradition states that this art style dates back to mythology of the Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to do paintings at the time of marriage of his daughter, Sita, to Lord Ram. However the contemporary art of Mithila painting was born in the early 1960’s, following the terrible famine in Bihar. It was Baskar Kulkarni from the All India Handicraft Board in Delhi who recognized the commercial potential of this folk art form and urged the villagers to also paint on handmade paper to supplement their meager income and alleviate the poverty of the region. Over the past fifty years a wide range of styles of Mithila art have evolved, with styles differentiated by region and caste. There are mainly three schools: Kayastha, Brahmin, and Tattoo.

Religion plays an important role in the lifestyle and tradition of the people of Bihar which is reflected in their paintings of Hindu Mythology. It is the Mithila women who have kept the culture alive especially in painting. Women do most of the Madhubani paintings and their creativity can be experienced in their desire to please their gods and to develop their spirituality.
Women of upper castes mainly do the wall paintings of the Kohbar Ghar, Gosain Ghar and the Aripan Floor paintings. The use of colors would differentiate each from their work. Brahmins use colors like pink, green, yellow, lemon, blue and black. Kayastha painting consist of just black and deep red. Ganga Devi, Mahasundari Devi, Sita Devi and Bani Devi are some of the prominent women artists. 



Patachitra scroll painting comes from the eastern part of India mainly from the state of West Bengal and Bihar. The Bengali scroll tradition is an ancient one, featuring single image paintings or long vertical multi paneled scrolls known as 'patas' (paintings) or 'jorana patas' (scroll paintings). Painted jorana patas of rural Bengal are one of the few genuine narrative pictorial forms of folk art linked with performance that have survived down to the present century.

In Bengali, "Pat" means "picture" and "Patua" or "Chitrakar" means "Painter". The Patua is a kind of minstrel, religious preachers who employ these paintings as a means to propagate their religion. It was also an important device through which both oral and written epics are narrated. He goes from village to village, carrying these scrolls from door to door, and depending on people’s request, particular stories would be narrated for a small fee, either in cash or kind. The scrolls are done with sheets of paper sewn together and sometimes stuck on canvas. Their width can go from 4 to 14 inches and their length, often 3 feet, can exceed 15 feet. The subjects painted by the Patuas in West Bengal are extremely varied. Their audience is mainly Hindu or Muslim, sometimes Catholic. The themes are inspired by the sacred texts of each of these religions.They also speak about political subjects which are given to them by the local authorities like the regrouping of the lands or family planning. 


The Warli tribe settlements spread all over the Thane district of the state of Maharashtra. They are innate artists and their painting tradition is more than 1200 years old. The paintings on the walls of the their huts are traditionally done by the women of the tribe and are greatly influenced by the their surroundings and day to day life. These wall murals are done on red mud or cow dung layered walls and the figures are painted with a rice-flour mix, which could be washed off and re-painted every season. The traditional life of the Warli reflects their interaction, or more precisely, their co-existence with nature. The Warli believe that everything in this world interacts: the actions of humans and the harmony of space. The universal harmony is maintained by the implicit unique communication between humans and deities.

These extremely rudimentary wall paintings use a 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. Human and animal bodies are represented by two triangles joined at the tip; the upper triangle depicts the trunk and the lower triangle the pelvis. Their precarious equilibrium symbolizes the balance of the universe, and of the couple. These tribal art startle visually without the prop of color and with a remarkable economy of detail.