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10 Indian Folk Art Styles That Mesmerised The World

by SaleBhai Team - 24-Mar-2017 - Decor & lifestyle

Ancient Indian folk art has always been driven by innovation, need, availability of raw materials, religion, and society. The diversity of India has greatly been reflected in these traditional art forms. Be it paintings, or pottery, or weaving, native art styles carry a raw, natural feel that make them unique and high on aesthetic value. Want to learn more about tribes in India? Click here


 Indian tribes


How old is traditional folk art in India?

As Mary Catherine Bateson (American writer and cultural anthropologist) rightly said, “What would it be like to have not only colour vision but culture vision, the ability to see the multiple worlds of others?” Art is all about giving, expressing one’s imagination and creativity. With proven existence of folk art in the Indus valley civilisation, it is safe to assume that structured art forms were practised even before that time. The rich history of Indian paintings and other forms of art shows a classic self-evolving pattern with change in socio-political demography.


The following explains the market analysis of Indian art brilliantly. Check it out!


Indian tribal art market analysis


What are the influencing factors? 

 Indian folk art has undergone a slow evolution, thanks to exposure of multiple foreign cultures such as Mughals, British, Portuguese, Dutch, and more. The careful mix of indigenous skill and creativity with foreign styles has resulted in creations that have mesmerised the entire world.


Before moving ahead, check how Prof Shatarupa Thakurta Roy explains Indian folk art in the following video.



Here’s the list of 10 such art forms

Madhubani painting

Mithila map

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Also known as Mithila art, this unique form originated in present day Nepal and Bihar. As a very popular style, Madhubani is practised mostly by women who are on a spiritual quest. This ancient art form was kept as a closely guarded secret and was only introduced to the outside world after an earthquake in 1930. According to William G Archer, the Madhubani paintings discovered from the broken houses of the earthquake-hit region could be compared with the works of Picasso and Miro. The subject of this style varied from different gods and epics to flora and fauna.


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Miniature painting

As the name suggests, this special craft involves small-sized paintings that boast acute expressions and intricate details. The origin of Miniature paintings can be traced back to the Mughal period during the 16th century. With a heavy influence of the Persian style, these paintings became extremely popular during the rule of Akbar and Shah Jahan. After being adopted by the Rajputs, the art form created a permanent impact and is still practised in Rajasthan. The most striking aspect about these paintings is that all humans are portrayed with big eyes, sharp nose, and a slim waist. Men are seen wearing turbans.


Want one for your bedside table? Click here to check out some of the best Rajasthani art and handicrafts.


Black pottery

Population chart of Indian tribes

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Have you ever been to Manipur? If you have, then you know the level of craze that surrounds black pottery items. This age-old art is practised mainly by the Tangkhul tribe in Ukhrul district. Handmade with clay, serpentinite rock, weather rock, and seeds of chiron-na, black pottery items vary from small mugs to large bowls. The most striking aspect of this unique art is that the items made are naturally fireproof and microwave proof, making them heavily sought after in the world market.


Want to add an ethnic touch to your everyday life? Check this exciting black pottery coffee cup from Manipur now!


Pattachitra painting

This special form of scroll painting originated in the 15th century from the religious hubs of Puri and Konark. A popular cloth-based art, Pattachitra painting usually depicts gods, epics, and religious preaching. Found primarily in modern-day West Bengal and Odisha, this unique form shows a lot of Mughal influence and involves angular, sharp, bold lines. 


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Bamboo and cane crafts

Tribes of India

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If it is authentic bamboo and cane handicraft that you are looking for, you can not afford to miss north-eastern India. Also known as the hub of cane and bamboo crafts, the states of Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram boast some of the finest traditional artisans of the world. The availability of raw materials such as bamboo and cane, traditional age-old technique, unique skill set and creativity of the artisans, and usability of the products in the region, make the states prime places to look for high-quality items made of bamboo and cane. The wide range of products includes coffee mugs, lampshades, baskets, towel hangers, napkin holders, and more.


Want some of these finely-crafted ethnic items? Click here for the best of the Northeast. 


Kalighat paintings

Kalighat folk art

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This breathtaking style has been discovered recently and is said to have originated in the 19th century from Kalighat, West Bengal. These paintings are done on cloth, depicting stories that vary from the religious context to some striking social issues. There are evidences to believe that this unique art form was used for social awareness. With bold drawings, flawless strokes, and exquisite brushwork, these paintings narrated the condition of common Indians under the British and Zamindari rule. 


 Tanjore paintings

Having originated in 1600 AD, Tanjore paintings are said to have been encouraged by Nayaks of Thanjavur. The most striking feature of this form is the use of gold foils that impart a surreal look and feel to the paintings. Showcasing the perfect mix of Maratha, Deccani, and European styles, the main subjects of this style were saints, gods, and goddesses.


Kalamkari paintings

Kalamkari is a special art form that is done with a pen. There are two types of Kalamkari paintings in India, both originating from the state of Andhra Pradesh – Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti. Machilipatnam involves block printing whereas; Srikalahasti is more of a free-flowing art. This unique style is found primarily on sarees and other dress materials. The subject varies from flora and fauna to Hindu epics giving the customers a wide range of options to choose from. 


Warli paintings

What is warli painting?

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One of the oldest art forms in India, this style can be traced back to 2500 BC and is still practised by the Warli tribes. The use of simple geometric shapes such as circles, triangles, and squares to depict everyday activities such as hunting, fishing, dancing, and gatherings is mesmerising to say the least. One circle and two triangles are used to form a human shape. The simplicity and creativity involved make this form heavily sought after in the world market. The background is usually made of a dark colour and the shapes are in white.


Phad paintings

This scroll painting form originated in Rajasthan and is primarily focussed on religious tales involving heroic deeds of different gods and goddesses. The vegetable colours and the 15 to 30 feet canvas are the major characteristics of this unique art form.


Did you know that there is a painting style that involves vomiting on the canvas? Want to know more? Click here.



Traditional Indian paintings have never failed to mesmerise the world, thanks to extreme creativity and skill involved in the art forms. This article takes you back in time and speaks about 10 such breathtaking styles of ancient India. The gradual evolution of Indian folk art has seen many styles go extinct. However, the listed 10 art forms have managed to survive the test of time, gaining appreciation from all parts of the world.


Author’s note

There are some creations of man that forces us to believe in the existence of a supernatural power. Quite an irony, isn’t it? These 10 Indian folk art forms highlight the irony in the biggest way possible. Simple approach, limited raw materials, and zero involvement of advanced technology on one hand and unmatched creativity and skill of the artisans on the other, have managed to make these art forms popular in the world market. Want to give your home an ethnic touch with these fascinating masterpieces? Make the best use of online marketplaces such as SaleBhai to order everything that your heart desires.


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Did you like this story? Want to share your feedback/appreciation/criticism? Please feel free to leave your opinion in the comment section below. 

Leave your comment


blog.comments.postedbyGuestNovember 21,2018 11:25:21 PM
Indian Folk art painting has undergone a transformation with the exposure of multiple cultural fusions such as French, Dutch, British, Mughals and Portuguese. Would you love to purchase them? Then I would recommend indian art zone
blog.comments.postedbyGuestMay 31,2019 06:36:48 PM
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