Warli is an ancient folk art known for the use of monotones and simplistic style of painting using triangles, circles and squares as motifs. The origins of Warli date back to 10th century A.D., and it has similarities with paintings found in the caves of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh. This folk art survived solely through customs practised for generations by the Warlis and got recognized only in the 1970s.
Warli paintings hold a special significance in handicraft space in India. The origins of Warli folk art are from Northern Sahayadri range in Maharashtra. Particularly, tribal women belonging to Warli and Malkharkoli tribes found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai in Thane district are the main craftsmen, who have carried forward the art form. These scared pictographs use rice paste and straw, which is then smeared on the mud walls of their huts. Evolved from the mural form, these paintings are done during festivals, harvests, weddings and dances. The paintings are symbolic expressions of day-to-day experiences and beliefs where the faces of the human figures are circle, body with two triangles and females are identified with protruding curve line symbolizing ponytail. This art form depicts immense respect for nature and wildlife for their role in sustaining humankind. The warli artists use only white for their paintings which is a mixture of rice paste and water with gum as a binding.
The Warlis lead a very simple life, and the same is depicted through the paintings- to be environmentally conscious and lead a life that promotes harmony between humans and nature. Contemporary Warli paintings have begun branching out and are now illustrated on papers, vases, mugs, bed sheets, cushions, cell phone covers, textiles and apparels too. The simplicity of the designs and that it can be generated using modern-day printing technology has helped the art form to an extent.
However, more efforts are needed to strengthen and develop warli painting as a dependable livelihood opportunity for the custodians of the artform who have safeguarded it for ages. Through our EcoKriti initiative, we hope to do that precisely. The hinterlands of Maharashtra- Jawhar, Dhanua, Vikramgad, Talasari, Palghar is the cradle of folk art.