15 fascinating art forms of India by Hasthkala Curators

India’s ironic cultural heritage and epochs of evolutionary tradition is established by the enormous variety of handicrafts made all across the country. Handicrafts mirror the cultural distinctiveness of the ethnic people who are involved in crafting it. Each piece of art work is designed meticulously and made with affection, to deliver the final interior decor product. Through each handicraft, a deep deep-rooted story is narrated and years of tradition and cultural heritage is reflected. Traditional handicrafts of India are not just based on the culture and region, but it also portrays the change of dynamics within the country.

Listed below are 15 fascinating art forms of India:

  • Rice straw art

Rice straw art is an ancient leaf art originated in Kerala, that employs different natural shades of rice straws to craft exquisite paintings. Nature, sea, coconut trees, boats, beach and culture of Kerala are the general themes of these painting. 

This traditional art form was established well before our knowledge of colour application came into existence. This leaf art form entails the usage of natural colours of the rice plant to form a straw collage of unparalleled beauty. No paint, colour or dye is added to the natural colour of the rice straw which happens to be the dried leaves of the rice plant. It is completely crafted with natural ingredients and thus, weans off all artificial ingredients. This exceptional art form is on the list of endangered art and only a handful artists around the world practice this exclusive art. To buy rice straw art visit.

  • Tholu bommalata

Tholu bommalata literally translates to “the dance of leather puppets”, Tholu means “leather” and bommalata means “puppet dance”. It is the shadow puppet theatre tradition originating from the state of Andhra Pradesh. The leather puppet, which was traditionally crafted from deer skin, is now made using goat hide now. After an exhausting two-week long process of cleaning, the skin becomes translucent and ready for the intricate artwork. After the leather is ready, it is painted to give rise to various deities and figures. 

Apart from the translucency and upbeat colours, what gives these puppets their extra push is the punched designs drawn on the characters to illustrate jewellery. Once surrounded by colour and held against the light, they look like shimmering jewels.

Today, the puppeteers have broadened their horizon into a wide range of products using the same craft. The transparency and sturdiness of the material makes it ideal for lampshades and screens, revitalizing the surrounding dull space. Buy Tholu Bommalata interior decor products

  • Gond art

Gond art is a form of painting from folk and tribal art that is practiced by one of the largest tribes in India – the Gond – who are chiefly from Madhya Pradesh, but also can be found in regions of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The work of Gond artists is entrenched in their folk tales and culture, and thus story-telling is a prominent element of each painting.

Bestowing the Gond belief system, all belongings are inhabited by a spirit and are considered sacred. Gond paintings are a reflection of man’s close connection with his natural ambiance. The motifs showcase the rural lifestyle and they’re blended with rituals and deities. 

The paint is naturally derived from charcoal, flowers and cow dung. The artwork is enclosed within carefully drawn lines and dots are added to give that sense of fine detail. Buy Gond art interior decor products.

  • Pattachitra

The term Pattachitra has progressed from the Sanskrit terms patta, translating to “canvas”, and chitra, meaning “picture”. Hence, Pattachitra painting is done on canvas, and is demonstrated by vivid colours, ingenious Pattachitra motifs and designs which portray mythology. It turns out to be one of the oldest and most known art forms of Odisha.

The first thing on the agenda is creating the canvas by soaking tamarind seeds in water for three days. The seeds are then crushed and mixed with water and finally heated in an earthen pot commonly known as niryas kalpa. The paste is used to hold two pieces of cloth together, and caked with a powder of soft clay stone numerous times until it becomes firm. The process of preparing the paint from natural sources is a tedious task which makes use of gum of the Kaitha tree that acts as the base for concocting different pigments. Over the years, this art form has undergone a great deal of transition but the effervescence and uniqueness still remains. Buy Pattachitra art interior decor products.

  • Kalamkari

The term Kalamkari is derived from a Persian word where kalam means “pen” and kari translates to “craftsmanship”. Andhra Pradesh is the home to this intricate art, where motifs are hand painted on silk or cotton fabric using natural dyes. The motifs have a wide range such as flowers, paisleys and the Hindu epics.

There are two distinguishable styles of Kalamkari art in India – Srikalahasti style and Machilipatnam style. In the latter style, motifs are printed with hand-carved traditional blocks with sophisticated detailing which is hand painted. The former, draws inspiration from the Hindu mythology depicting various scenes from the folklore and epics. This style holds a strong religious connect due to its origin from temples. Buy Kalamkari art decor

  • Cheriyal

Cheriyal paintings are commonly the pictorial presentation of scenes from the Indian mythological epics such as Mahabharata, Ramayana, Krishna Leela, Garuda Purana and other such scripts. Through the paintings, a deep rooted and ancient story is narrated. They are made on a long vertical piece of cloth in a chronicle form. Typically, folk singers would recite the stories using Cheriyal as an aid for visual presentation. 

Apart from paintings, Cheriyal artists have also been known to make masks and dolls. These were also an essential part of the storytelling tradition. The masks were made of coconut shells, sawdust and tamarind seed paste. For making the dolls, a light wood known as ‘tellapuniki’ was formerly used to make the dolls. In the recent times, the long scrolls have been shortened and only excerpts are depicted in the paintings. However, the art form is still an absolute eye candy given its intricate patterns and bright colours. Buy Cheriyal art decor.

  • Warli

Warli is one of the most ancient Indian folk art that traces back to the Warli region of Maharashtra. This brilliant tribal art form plays around with various shapes to depict the belief system and cultural heritage of the Warli community. Traditionally, this piece of artwork was primarily done on the walls to demarcate special occasions. However, these days this art form is commonly seen in the form of wall hangings, lamp shades, handbags and even on fabric.

The painting is done against a brown background which is basically be a mixture of mud and cow dung cakes, but in the recent times, paint has replaced the mud. The white pigment using which the artists work their wonders is a paste of rice and gum. The most commonly observed patterns in Warli art is a spiral formation of human stick figures surrounding a motif. This reflects their belief that life is eternal with no beginning or an end. Buy Warli Art decor.

  • Kerala Mural

Originating from the region of Kalamezhuthu, Kerala Mural is the tradition of drawing on the floor, using resplendent yet soothing colours. The earliest traces of these murals embellish the walls of the Thirunandhikara Cave Temple in present day Tamil Nadu, and are dated to the 10th century.

These paintings depict the highly ornamental version of the Hindu deities with highly arches brows, elongated lips and wide opened eyes. The colour palette is limited to five colours- yellow, red, green, black and white, all naturally derived. These paintings follow minute specificity when it comes to portraying men and women. The eyes can be in the shape of a fish, a lotus or even a conch shell. The hair can be wavy, curly or straight. Each figure has its own enigma and gravity, be it a demon or a deity. 

Today, this alluring art form is a witness to a wide range of variations in terms of style, period and preservation. Unfortunately, in many temples the paintings have weathered away with time and are in urgent need of restoration. Buy Kerala Mural decor.

  • Madhubani Art

Also celebrated as Mithila painting due to its origins in the Mithila region of India and Nepal, Madhubani is an old-style Indian folk part carefully painted on canvas, cloth or cow dung washed hand paper. Human figures and geometrical figures filled with vibrantly joyous colours are the primary highlights of Madhubani paintings. The commonly depicted subjects include Ardhanarishvara- half male and half female which is known to be a fused androgynous form of the Hindu God Shiva and His consort Parvathi – a harmony of supreme powers.

The Madhubani style of painting can be outlined to the Madhubani district in Bihar, literally translating to “a forest of honey”, where women spent a great deal of time making these paintings on the walls of their homes. Primarily attributed to the upper caste in the initial stages, this was later adapted by women across all castes. The women used their ardent sense of magnificence to create reminiscent paintings of gods and goddesses, animals and characters from mythology, with the help of natural pigments and painted on the walls with the help of twigs, matchsticks and fingers.

  • Dokra

The primary traditional metal smiths of Odisha and West Bengal are the Dokra Tribes. The process of creating handicrafts is using the lost-wax casting technique. This type of metal casting has been used in India for over 40 centuries and is still being used. The creations of dokra artisans are in great demand in domestic as well as foreign markets owing to its nascent simplicity, captivating folk motifs and powerful form. The highly popular pieces include Dokra peacocks, horses, human figures, owls, idols of gods, measuring bowls, and lamp caskets. 

The process of making Dokra is eye-catching in terms of the naturally occurring materials that are used. The primary mould is made using fine sand and natural clay. Wax threads are wound around the clay mould until its entire surface is covered uniformly. Following this, intricate and minute details imparting finesse are added. The clay mould is then cooked on a heating system where the wax generally comes out from the ducts of the sewer. The entire process happens to be very tedious, hence the pricing of these artefacts are on higher end of the spectrum.

Each piece or constituent part of Dokra art has quite a unique identity. The tribes at first used this specific art form to make idols of deities, but over a long period of time, as spiritual and religious erosion took place, they started making more forms that represented worldly objects and entities that served more as artefacts as compared to objects of devotion. Buy Dokra Art decor.

  • Lippan Kaam

This glittering art form hails from the Rann of Kutch. One could find these beautifully crafted shimmering mirror art work on the circular mud huts known as bhungas, in Kutch. The word Lippan essentially means “clay” or “dung” in Gujarati, and the word kaam translates to “work”. Lippan Kaam is thus the mud-relief work that integrates mirrors in the process of beautification. It is used to aggrandize the interior and exterior walls of the circular homes. 

Conventionally, dung and clay are mixed in equivalent proportions, and the dough is made. Mud and clay possess a natural tendency to stick to to the walls of mud houses. Earlier, husk of millet was made use of, as an alternative to dung, to protact the art from termites.

Off late, instead of animal dung, the dough is prepared with chalk powder, sawdust and mud along with glue. The transition to modern materials has allowed the artwork to last longer. It is more durable and requires no maintenance, unlike the art implemented via the traditional process.

  • Tanjore paintings

Tanjore paintings hail from the town of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. It is popular for its profligate depictions of deities using lively colours and extravagant add-ons, especially gold foil. Tanjore paintings are also known as palagai padam– translating to “picture on a wooden plank” – as they are usually completed on panels made from teak or jackfruit wood. These paintings are known to depict deities and drew inspiration from the miscellaneous cultural groups that patronised the art form.

Today, Tanjore paintings still have an extensive appeal. In the recent times, they have been commercialised to a great extent. Though the art form has stood strong against the test of time and continues to be well-known, the overall decline in the quality is perturbing to a lot of art enthusiasts. 

  • Blue Pottery of Jaipur

The name “blue pottery” originates from the eye-catching cobalt blue dye that is used to colour the pottery. It is one of many Eurasian types of blue and white pottery, and related in the shapes and decoration to Islamic pottery. In the process of making the pots and plates, no clay is used. The dough is made using quartz stone powder, Fuller’s earth, powdered glass, gum, borax and water. It is fired at low temperatures which makes them fragile.

The common patterns and motifs include birds, peacocks and floral designs. The pottery has a vast horizon such as trinkets, boxes, vases and ashtrays – all decorative. The colour palette is restricted to cobalt blue and its derivatives such as green from copper oxide and white. At times, however unconventional colours like yellow and brown are also employed in crafting these vibrant plates and pots.

  • Sholapith

Shola, the white soft core acquired from the stem of the eponymous plant, has been in use in Bengal since a long time. Customarily, due to its divine origin and white colour, the material is considered pure, auspicious, and hence used in religious functions. Due to the whiteness of the material and the fine workmanship, you may assume the shola handicraft is ivory.

Shola is also employed by the puppeteers of Borboria village in Nadia district to make the customary string puppets. The torso and head of the puppets are made using the light-weight shola which is then layered with clay and colour. Shola is also used in Odisha as a popular craft material. The crown worn by Lord Jagannath and his siblings during the Rathayatra are made using shola.

  • Terracotta work

Assam is home to the traditional potter communitities Kumhar and Hira. The former use wheel to create idols, toys and pots, whereas the latter manufacture household articles using compression.  Among the Hiras, only women are involved in pottery while the men procure raw materials and sell the products. The commonly used pottery products are earthen plates, pitchers, pots, lamps and incense stick holders.

In response to the altering tastes of the customers and growing local demands, the artisans have shifted the themes from traditional to modern and contemporary ones. Thus, stirred by the present day transportation system, the artisans also create motorcycles which is not an uncommon sight in the Indian states.

Most of the art forms are dying and are on the verge of extinction. Hasthkala Curators is promoting and popularising wonderfully handcrafted items and use them as a substitute to the western world interior decor products.

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