Warli Painting art style derives its name from Warli tribe, who live in Thane and Nasik districts of Maharashtra and popularized this unique style of paintings. Warli Paintings have rather distinctive style, as one could seldom see a straight line in these paintings. Generally, we would find these paintings on the walls and floors of their homes.
This style of paintings came into prominence in 1970s, when Jivya Mashe, a painter belonging to Warli tribe started getting long-overdue global recognition for his Warli tribal art form. According to the art scholars, this style of painting steeped in Warli traditions, it started long time ago, perhaps in the Neolithic period between 2500 BC and 3000 BC. Since then, this traditional painting style has been passed from one generation to another, surviving, now thriving and basking in global recognition. No doubt, many of these art scholars point out the similarities between Warli Tribal Art Form and cave-paintings of pre-historic era.
In the Warli Tribal village, these paintings are mostly done by “Savashinis” married women at the marriage ceremony; in fact, for them, these paintings are important fertility rites. These Savashinis learn their art lessons by observing their elders, right from their childhood days. They paint on brownish mud-base using predominantly white colour made from grinding rice into powder, though occasionally they use red and yellow colours. So these painters use grass and bamboo twigs and thin rice paste to create these beautiful pieces of art. Off-late, we can also find more and more Warli Tribal men pick-up traditional paintings work to earn their living and many of these Warli Tribal painters have started to blend the modern theme into their traditional painting style.
Interestingly, one would rarely notice a straight line in Warli paintings. They use triangles to depict humans and animals and thin lines to make their arms and legs. Besides, they use dots and dashes creatively to make up straight lines and make other elements in their paintings. Most of these paintings not only narrate scenes and characters from their social and religious beliefs, but they have also started showing the day-to-day activities from their lives, for example, household works, dancing, sowing, harvesting, hunting, et al.
Off-late, however, with Warli artists getting national and international exposure, one could find them using straight lines in their paintings. Yet, when we look at Warli Paintings, one could find triangular humans and animals with thin lines depicting their hands and legs, besides use of dots and dashes to make up straight lines.
For these artists belonging to Tribal Community, their customary painting styles are much more than the modern day art; in other words, for these artists, their traditional art has deep religious and spiritual significance that has been passed down to them by their forefathers. We can say that these paintings were the only way to pass on the hereditary knowledge and folktales to the next generation. And the modern Warli Painters are doing a fine job of keeping alive their painting traditions.