Warli painting is a tribal art mostly done by Adivasi from North Sahyadri Range in India, i.e. in western India. Warli is the name of the largest tribe found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, in Western India and is still practiced today.
Despite being in such close proximity to the largest metropolis in India, Warli tribesmen shun all influences of modern urbanization.
Their extremely rudimentary wall paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary: a circle, a triangle and a square. Their paintings were monosyllabic. The circle and triangle come from their observation of nature, the circle representing the sun and the moon, the triangle derived from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square seems to obey a different logic and seems to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land. So the central motive in each ritual painting is the square, known as the “chauk” or “chaukat”, mostly of two types: Devchauk and Lagnachauk. .
Significantly, male gods are unusual among the Warli and are frequently related to spirits which have taken human shape. The central motif in these ritual paintings is surrounded by scenes portraying hunting, fishing and farming, festivals and dances, trees and animals. Human and animal bodies are represented by two triangles joined at the tip; the upper triangle depicts the trunk and the lower triangle the pelvis. Their precarious equilibrium symbolisesthe balance of the universe, and of the couple, and has the practical and amusing advantage of animating the bodies. One of the central striking aspect of many warli painting is the “Tarpa dance”- the tarpa, a trumpet like instrument, is played in turns by different men. Men and women entwine their hands and move in a circle around the tarpa player.The dancers follow the tarpa player, turning and moving as he turns, never turning their back to the tarpa. The circle formation of the dancers is also said to be a resemble the circle of life
These days, even men have taken to painting and they are often done on paper incorporating traditional decorative Warli motifs with modern elements such as the bicycle, etc. Warli paintings on paper have become very popular and are now sold all over India. Today, small paintings are done on cloth and paper but they look best on the walls or in the form of huge murals that bring out the vast and magical world of the Warlis.
Warli painting also featured in Coca-Cola’s ‘Come home on Diwali’ ad campaign in 2010 was a tribute to the spirit of India’s youth and a recognition of the distinct lifestyle of the Warli tribe of Western India.