The odyssey of folk art in India is interspersed with regional histories and cultural nuances. Many of these arts and crafts have attained global recognition and made inroads in the mainstream. Listed here are four folk art forms that have stood the test of time and resurfaced in various iterations and avatars. A common thread running through these are that all four have received the Geographical Index (GI) tag. 

Madhubani Paintings, Bihar: As you saunter into the northern district of Madhubani in Bihar, you will encounter bouts of colour on the walls of most houses. If you look closely, each tells a different story – a royal court session, wedding procession, people doing daily chores, religious ceremonies, flora and fauna, etc. These are Madhubani paintings, also known as Mithila paintings, which take the name from the region. Twigs and fingers dripping with natural colours and dyes conjured beautiful designs, thus beautifying homes and marking special occasions. The art assumed a larger form and greater reach when these designs were translated on paper. The women of the town joined hands in this mass production, earning themselves means and giving impetus to the art. The designs are ubiquitous – on textiles, wall hangings, ceramic ware, and in galleries.

Warli Art, Maharashtra: The white ‘stick figure’ paintings on books, mugs, home décor items, garments, and as interior accents are easily recognisable. The eponymous Adivasi tribe, mainly residing in the Dahanu and Thane districts of the state, is the harbinger of this minimalistic yet elaborate painting art form. The contrast of the white pigment – a mixture of rice paste, water and gum – against the brown-red backdrop – walls of the house made of a mixture of branches, mud and cow dung – of a Warli painting is stark and beautiful. The diurnal tribal way of life – women carrying waterpots, children playing, men with their carts, cattle and so on – is the sole subject of these paintings. Today, as the art finds space in the commercial market, the designs have evolved to include landscapes and flora and fauna, and the white is often replaced with a vibrant palette.

Dhokra Art, Chhatisgarh: With a legacy of over 4,000 years, the Dhokra is probably the oldest art of metal casting which uses the lost-wax casting technique. The Dhokras of Bastar district of Chhatisgarh have long been creating everything from horses and elephants, to religious idols, measuring bowls, and lamp caskets using the hollow casting method. A combination of art and craft, this tribal folk form has paved it way into homes and art galleries, and curios stores. A group from the Bastar community often conducts workshops around the country to propagate the art. Chiffon Cake, Nyonya Kuehs such as Kueh Dar dar and AngKu Kueh. The latter is a red tortoise shaped cake made with peanuts to traditionally announce the birth of baby girls! Another quaint cafe Open Door Policy serves dishes like Wagyu Rump, Beef Cheeks and Truffle Scrambled Eggs and PS Cafe Petit has some mouth-watering Sticky Date Pudding and some lovely ice cream too.

 

Kangra Painting, Himachal Pradesh: In the highlands of Himachal Pradesh, the pictorial art of Kangra originated in Guler. Also known as Pahari painting, this art form reached its zenith during the reign of Rajputs in this former princely state. The love story of Lord Krishna and Radha, narratives from the epic Bhagvat Gita, nocturnal scenes, and love poems were the often-explored subjects of the paintings. The Kangra paintings stand out for their verdant landscapes and rich colours made of vegetable extracts, and beautiful human figures.