The Best of Traditional Indian Art that still breathes

For different nations and cultures are known for their religious beliefs and standards to be passed on to generations, India is famed for a number of art forms that have stood the test of time and are still prevalent among us. These Indian folk art forms are diverse in terms of the culture they originated from and still possess a strong glimpse of the traditional heritage. The techniques are obviously evolved with adaptions of fresh paint materials, colours, and textures but the essence still remains intact.

The themes of these traditional paintings mainly centred on the representation of religious deities, glorification of battles, the narration of epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, and portrayals of important people in the society.Though the subject matter is somehow similar, each of the art forms differs in the aesthetic and creative exclusivity. In the old lang syne, the ingredients used to create these artworks were mainly derived from natural sources like vegetables, tree barks, mud, leaves, soil, charcoal, etc. These natural material offer an impression of archaism and classical wistfulness.

Let’s take a look at some of these exquisite art forms that have crossed the long sea of time and are still able to mark an impact on art lovers:


Originated in the Mithila state of Bihar, this art form goes back thousands of years to the epoch of Ramayana. It is believed that for the wedding ceremony of Rama and Sita, King Janaka (father of Sita) summoned his artists to beautify the entire palace and area with mesmerising artworks. This marked the birth of one of the oldest traditional Indian artworks. Madhubani paintings, since then, have been practiced by the village people, mainly drawn on the mud walls of houses. This appealing art form was however lost in the sands of time and was re-discovered by a British officer during an earthquake aftermath inspection in the year 1930. Themes of these paintings were mainly whirling around the depiction of Gods and Goddesses along with the representation of flora fauna.


By the name itself, Miniature paintings are known for their tiny dimensions,tangled specifics, and excruciating style. Although the origin of Miniatures goes way back to the 10th century AD when these were carved on the leaves, the real blooming of this art style happened during the rule of Mughals in the 16th century. That is why a lot of Miniature pieces reflect the touch of Persian art forms. Two Mughal kings under whom this art style flourished were Akbar and Shah Jahan. In the preceding years, Miniature style was adopted by the Rajputs of Rajasthan too. Subject matters of Miniature paintings arealways the religious figures, thedepiction of royal court scenes, and portraits of elite people.


Traditional Indian art is incomplete if I don’t talk about the astonishing, the variant, and eye-captivating designs of Phad paintings. Another folk art from Rajasthan, Phad paintings are an epitome of the vivacious and unique scroll artworks. Themes majorly swirled around the representation of Gods like Devnarayanji or Pabuji. The name of this art form comes from the 30-15 feet long cloth, which is used as a canvas and is termed as Phad. Created from the colours of natural ingredients like vegetables, stones, plants, etc, Phad paintings are more like a running chronicle of the course and heroic feats of deities.


Another old folk form of India, Warli paintings are mainly noted for utilisation of dimensional shapes like circles, triangles, squares, etc. Believed to come from the WesternGhats, this art form is a culturalepitome of the Warli tribe, one of the oldest in India. The theme of Warli paintings revolve around the representation of mundane life routines such as hunting, festivals, dance, fishing, etc.However, the uniqueness of these paintings lies in the demonstration of circle and triangle in the shapeofa human. The background colours majorly used are red ochre or dark shades.


This art form can be still found in the exquisite works on sarees and ethnic clothing, representing everything from the narrative of Ramayana and Mahabharata to the depiction of flora fauna. Incepted in Andhra Pradesh, Kalamkari art is basically of two types:Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti. The Machilipatnam style is known for its block-printed style whereas the Srikalahasti form is adored for its free flow of art made with pen on the fabric of clothes. Kalamkari originates from two words ‘Kalam’, which means pen and ‘Kari’ that signifies art. The entire interpretation is ‘drawing with a pen’.


This traditional Indian art comes from the state of West Bengal. Originated in the 19th century near the Kalighat temple of Kolkata, these paintings were made to represent the images of deities. However, the subject matter soon was rerouted towards the theme of social reforms. The materials used to draw these artworks were cheap colours, squirrel hairs (for brushes) and natural pigments. Artists drawing these pieces were mainly focused to generate awareness about the social autocracies.

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