Dots & Dashes – The Art of Warli Painting Warli is not just an art form, but a way of life. This has been true for the Warlis or Varlis, one of India’s largest tribes, since the early 10th century.

The Warlis hail from the Warli village in the Thane district of Maharashtra. Originally done by women, the paintings depicted the social life of the tribes and not just mythological characters or deities – a significant departure from several other Indian painting traditions. In these scenes, you see the daily life of the humans eked out in harmony with animals and other elements of nature.

The humans are engaged in various activities like dancing, sowing, harvesting or hunting. The art form lacked official recognition until the 1970s when Warli painting was considered an inalienable part of Indian artistic heritage. How to read a Warli painting The symbolism in Warli art represents the circle of life.

The triangle symbolizes mountain and trees. The square indicates a sacred enclosure for the mother goddess, symbolizing fertility, while the circle represents the sun and the moon. The upward facing triangle in a Warli painting represents the male while the downward facing triangle represents the female.

How to paint a Warli The Warli paintings are done on mud walls with white paste. This white paste is a mixture of rice paste and water with gum as a binding. They use a bamboo stick chewed at the end to make it as supple as a paintbrush. Warli paintings are part of the Indian tradition of wall art, otherwise known as ‘Bhitti Chitra’ originally practiced by women.

The Warli paintings also carry a close resemblance to pre-historic cave paintings. You would never see a straight line in Warli art.

They usually consist a series of dots and dashes arranged linearly. Human and animal bodies are represented by two triangles joined at the tip.

One of the central aspects depicted in many Warli paintings is the tarpa dance. The Tarpa, a trumpet-like instrument, is played in turns by different village men. Men and women entwine their hands and move in a circle around the Tarpa player.

Evolution of Warli art Nowadays even men have taken to Warli. Also, the medium has changed over the years. The paintings which were done on mud walls for decorating the homes of the Warli tribe are now also done on paper, cloth, fabrics and canvas.

In today’s time Warli paintings on paper have become very popular and are now sold all over India. Warli paintings look best on the walls or in the form of huge murals that bring out the actual magical of the Warlis.

Artists also make small paintings on cloth and paper. Why we could all use a Warli painting Warli art teaches us one or two things about life apart from being a marked as departure from the hustle and bustle of today’s daily lives.

Warli paintings teach us to find beauty and happiness in our daily lives, in the simple things. The art gives out a very strong message of how to preserve and nurture art and pass it down across generations without compromising on authenticity. Baaya’s contemporary experiments with Warli We at Baaya have used Warli art to enhance several projects.

For a spa villa project in Khadakwasla we chose Warli as it was typical to the region.

We even brought the art form into the bathroom to add luxury and texture. The art helped strike the perfect balance between the traditional and the contemporary