Warli Art is an illustration of how tribal culture has been preserved over many generations. Warli art showcases how this culture has withstood the passage of time.

Let’s dive in and see what is Warli art, where it’s from and how it came into being.

What is Warli Art?

One of the oldest kinds of art forms in history, Warli Art is rooted in the tribal society of India. The word "Warli" is derived from the Marathi word "Waral," which denotes a small plot of tilled land. 

Warli art is also known as  Adivasi Paintings, Naga Painting, or Tribal Art. As the name suggests Warli art form is practised by the Adivasi tribe called “Warli”.

The Warli tribe largely resides in the northern region of the Sahyadri Range, which comprises cities like Jawhar, Palghar, Dahanu, Talasari, Mokhada, and Vikramgarh in the Palghar district, India. 

Warli art uses minimalistic shapes and lines to create paintings with deeper meanings. The art form is an expression of the tribal's thoughts, values, and beliefs. 

What Makes Warli Art Unique?

Warli Art paintings have a lovely rhythm and symmetry to them. However, the biggest appeal of Warli art is its simplicity. 

These rudimentary wall paintings portray a unique story just by using three fundamental geometric shapes: a circle, a triangle, and a square. These shapes represent various natural elements. 

The Warli art colour scheme is extremely simplistic, it consists of only red and white hues.

Evolution of Warli Art

The origin of Warli art can be traced back to the 10th century. However, the style of Warli art was not recognized until the 1970s. 

It was only recently that, Jivya Soma Mashe, a talented Warli painter, chose to defy convention and began painting for artistic purposes rather than purely cultural or ritualistic ones

He is the person behind bringing Warli art into the mainstream by bringing about basic changes, such as making Warli art paintings on paper. Hence increasing their longevity.

What does Warli Art Depict?

Warli art, in contrast to other folk painting traditions, does not tell any mythological or local folk tales. It depicts the tribes' relationship with mother nature and nature as the ultimate truth.

The paintings could be religious, related to some festivals or festivities such as weddings, or could be used to depict the daily life in the village. 

While male gods are rare in these paintings, female goddesses are meant to signify fraternity, fertility, and general well-being. 

The most commonly seen Warli art designs would show scenes of farming, fishing, hunting, or villagers dancing to the tunes of the Tarpa (a musical instrument).

Some common characteristics of Warli art include:

  • The human and animal bodies are represented by two triangles that touch at their tips.

  • Men differentiate female figures from their head buns.

  • Simple geometric forms are utilized to represent images of life and the environment. The circle represents the sun and the moon, the triangle represents the mountains and pointed trees, and the square represents the sacred enclosure or a piece of land.

Warli Art: Process

The Warli art technique is exceptionally simple. 

The mud surface of the home is cleaned, and then it is covered in cow dung and Geru. Then, using a white paste, the figures are painted on it. This white paste, which serves as an important catalyst, is made of rice, water, and gum

Bamboo sticks serve as a paintbrush. The artwork can be created on earthen pots, mud walls, cloth, or paper using a paste made from ground tamarind seeds and charcoal. 

Here are the main types of Warli art:

  • Marriage Warli – In the Marriage Warli art, only married women can paint the 'Lagnachauk', or marriage square. The squares are supposed to ensure fertility and safeguard the bride and husband from evil spirits.

  • Dancing Warli – This is a famous folk dance of the Warli people and is performed at night by both men and women. This typical painting will show the dancers forming almost a circle of people and the dancers will move in an anti-clockwise direction.

  • Kanna – This is the only version that is drawn on the floor and yet again, it is drawn only by the women, because it’s a symbol of virginity and is drawn on the third day of the wedding at the house of the bride.

  • Muthi – On the day that fresh rice is brought in from the field for the first time, muthi, or the fist, is used to make an impression on the walls of the homes. They are meant to represent the abundance of food. 


Today, Warli art is not just restricted to the traditional mud walls anymore, but, is also loved by consumers in the home decor. 

Not just that, Warli art is also leaving its mark on the textile industry. Warli art-printed sarees are all the rage right now!

This transfer of a single tribe's cultural quirks into the mainstream is a prime example of how art transcends boundaries and the passage of time to stay indescribably beautiful and timeless.

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