Warli Art- A Unique Tribal Art Form Of Western India

What is Warli Art?

Warli Art and Warli painting are unique tribal artworks created by the Adivasi community in Western India. The Warli community, the largest tribe near Mumbai, has preserved its traditions despite being close to the city. The art was discovered in the 1970s, creating a sensation due to its distinctiveness.

The word ‘Warli’ comes from the word ‘Warla’, meaning a piece of land. Women are the most important part of the creation of this art form. In Warli art, the walls act as the canvas for the beautiful paintings. The walls are made by mixing cow dung, branches, and earth, creating a reddish-brown background, also known as red ochre. The paintings highlight social bonds among people in the community and feature real-life scenes like trees, animals, events, and gatherings. They also narrate traditional stories. They don't include religious symbols but see nature as a god and show the connection between humans and nature.

Warli Art

The Origin of Warli Art

The origin of this art needs to be well-documented, but it likely dates back to the 10th century A.D. The paintings use simple shapes like circles, triangles, and squares, inspired by nature and human ingenuity. The circle represents the sun and moon, the triangle represents mountains and trees, and the square indicates sacred spaces or land. 

It is a celebratory reflection of the tribe's connection with nature and agricultural lifestyle. The motifs often depict scenes from their daily routines, agricultural practices, and social gatherings. One of the most common and cherished motifs in Warli art is showing a tribal dance called the 'Tarpa Dance' performed during joyful occasions, festivals, and weddings. In their traditional attire, the dancers form a mesmerizing circle, as if paying homage to the cyclical nature of life.

Exploring the Diverse Motifs of Warli Art

Understanding Warli paintings involves knowing the different motifs used in them. These motifs show the type of Warli painting we see. There are two types - ritualistic and non-ritualistic.

Ritualistic paintings connect the past, present, and future, holding sacred importance. Examples: Lagna Chowk, Dev Chowk, and Kanna. On the other hand, non-ritualistic paintings serve decorative purposes and depict scenes like hunting and festivals such as Holi.

 Here are some most important motifs in warli art:

1. Muthi Motif

The Muthi, also known as the fist, holds a special significance in the lives of the Warli tribe. Whenever new rice is brought home from the fields, the tribe members perform a beautiful tradition of imprinting their fists on the walls of their huts. This unique custom can be observed in almost every hut in the tribe's community. However, the imprints are not limited to just the huts; they can also be found on granaries, the inner walls of the kitchen, ploughs, and even on baskets used for storing grain.

2. Tapra Dance Motif

One of the most renowned folk dances of the Warli tribe is the Tarpa dance. This captivating performance takes place at night, right after dinner, and both men and women participate in its rhythmic charm. The centerpiece of this dance is the Tarpa, a large instrument, skilfully crafted by the tribe themselves.

3. Wedding Ceremony Motif

In the captivating world of Warli art, numerous versions of marriage ceremony paintings are depicted. One of the common motifs showcases the wedding ceremony, where the groom takes his bride to his house on a horse, accompanied by dancing guests and musicians. This joyous scene captures the essence of celebration and togetherness among the tribal community.

Unraveling the Tapestry of Types in Tribal Art

Warli paintings can be categorized into two types - ritualistic and non-ritualistic. The ritualistic paintings hold deep spiritual significance, bridging the connection between the past, present, and future. These artworks are considered sacred and play a pivotal role in various rituals and ceremonies. Examples of ritualistic paintings include Lagna Chowk, Dev Chowk, and Kanna, each carrying profound meaning in the Warli tribe's cultural practices.

On the other hand, non-ritualistic paintings serve a more decorative purpose. These artworks are not associated with any specific rituals or ceremonies before, during, or after their creation. Instead, they are crafted to celebrate daily life and showcase the vibrant aspects of the Warli community's existence. Scenes depicting hunting activities, agricultural practices, or joyous festivals like Holi fall under the umbrella of non-ritualistic Warli paintings. These paintings not only add beauty to their surroundings but also provide a glimpse into the colorful tapestry of the Warli people's daily routines and festivities.

Warli Art in Contemporary Life

Warli art, with its timeless charm and captivating motifs, has found its way into various products of both clothing and home textiles. This ancient art form is now adorning dresses such as tops, Kurtis, Saris, and Dupattas, adding a touch of ethnic elegance to modern fashion. It has also made its mark on casual wear, like T-shirts, giving a unique and artistic twist to everyday clothing.

In the realm of home textiles, Warli art has become a popular choice for creating a warm and inviting ambiance. Curtains, cushion covers, and pillow covers now feature the intricate patterns of this traditional art form, adding a touch of cultural heritage to home décor. Table cloths, table napkins, and tablemats adorned with Warli art turn mealtimes into a celebration of tribal art and nature's harmony.

The versatility of Warli art extends to home décor as well. Wall hangings display the art's storytelling abilities, while portraits, trays, and mobile stands featuring Warli motifs infuse living spaces with cultural depth. Fancy pots adorned with this art form serve as decorative pieces that honor the traditions of the past.


The charm of Warli art lies not only in its simplicity but also in its ability to adapt and transform while preserving its cultural essence. This ancient art form continues to captivate the world with its timeless appeal and offers the Warli tribe’s life, traditions, and spiritual beliefs. Whether depicted on walls, canvas, or various modern mediums, Warli art continues to be a celebrated artistic expression that bridges the gap between the past and the present. As we conclude our journey into the mesmerizing world of Warli art, we can't help but marvel at the simplicity and beauty that this ancient folk art embodies. Originating from the tribal communities of Western India, Warli art has transcended its humble beginnings to become a symbol of artistic expression and cultural identity.

So, let us take a leaf from the Warli tribe's book and embrace the spirit of celebration and harmony, for it is in appreciating the simple joys of life that we truly find beauty and happiness.