Indian Folk Arts that can add Colour and Culture to your house

India is very rich in its art and culture, and many of the finest forms have flowered in villages and tribal settlements where they have long served as modes of creative expression and communication. One of the challenges we face today is keeping these Indian folk arts forms alive but with support from government organizations, patrons of art and artists’ support groups there’s been a revival in recent years. Fortunately, the growing popularity of these art forms is helping in the upliftment of the local artisans.

Four particularly exquisite folk art styles are Madhubani, Warli, Gond and Pattachitra. They have several things in common – all use natural dyes for painting and even the brushes are made from natural materials like bamboo and twigs. Completely hand-drawn and painted, fully ecological, these works of art take time and effort, and therein lies their value.

Madhubani Painting, Bihar

madhubani painting
Madhubani painting originated in a small village, known as Maithili, of the Bihar state of India. Initially, the womenfolk of the village drew the paintings on the walls of their home, as an illustration of their thoughts, hopes and dreams. With time, the paintings started becoming a part of festivities and special events, like marriage. Slowly and gradually, the Madhubani painting of India crossed the traditional boundaries and started reaching connoisseurs of art, both at the national as well as the international level.
madhubani painting
The brush used for Madhubani paintings of Bihar was made of cotton, wrapped around a bamboo stick. The artists prepare the colors that are used for the paintings. Black color is made by adding soot to cow dung; yellow from combining turmeric (or pollen or lime) with the milk of banyan leaves; blue from indigo; red from the kusam flower juice or red sandalwood; green from the leaves of the wood apple tree; white from rice powder and orange from palasha flowers. There is no shading in the application of colors. A double line is drawn for outlines and the gap is filled with either cross or straight tiny lines. The linear Maithili paintings do not even require application of colors; only the outlines are drawn.

Warli Art, Maharashtra

warli art
Warli art is a beautiful folk art of Maharashtra, traditionally created by the tribal womens. Tribals are the Warli and Malkhar koli tribes found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, in Western India. This art was first explored in the early seventies & from then it was named as “Warli art”. Tribal people express themselves in vivid styles through paintings which they execute on the walls of their house. This was the only means of transmitting folklore to a populace not acquainted with the written word. Warli paintings were mainly done by the women folk.
warli art
The most important aspect of the painting is that it does not depicts mythological characters or images of deities, but depict social life. Pictures of human beings and animals, along with scenes from daily life are created in a loose rhythmic pattern. Warli paintings are painted white on mud walls. The paintings are beautifully executed and resembles pre-historic cave paintings in execution and usually depict scenes of human figures engaged in activities like hunting, dancing, sowing and harvesting.

Gond Art, Madhya Pradesh

gond art
Gond paintings are a form of painting from folk and tribal art that is practiced by one of the largest tribes in India with whom it shares its name. Gond comes from the Dravidian expression, Kond which means ‘the green mountain’. While Gond paintings are considered to be from predominantly from Madhya Pradesh, it is also quite common in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh and Odisha.
gond art
Gond art has become so predominant that the Government of India has stepped in to preserve their art form for future generations to enjoy.Gond paintings bear a remarkable likeness aboriginal art from Australia as both styles use dots to create the painting.

PattaChitra, Orissa

Pattachitra style of painting is one of the oldest and most popular art forms of Odisha. The name Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit words patta, meaning canvas, and chitra, meaning picture. Pattachitra is thus a painting done on canvas, and is manifested by rich colourful application, creative motifs and designs, and portrayal of simple themes, mostly mythological in depiction.

Some of the popular themes represented through this art form are Thia Badhia – depiction of the temple of Jagannath; Krishna Lila – enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child; Dasabatara Patti – the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu; Panchamukhi – depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity.
Making the patta is the first thing that comes in the agenda, and the painters, also called chitrakars, go about their work in preparing a tamarind paste, which is made by soaking tamarind seeds in water for three days. The seeds are later pounded with a crusher, mixed with water, and heated in an earthen pot to turn it to a paste, which is called niryas kalpa. The paste is then used to hold two pieces of cloth together with it, and coated with a powder of soft clay stone a couple of times till it becomes firm. Soon as the cloth becomes dry, the final touch of polishing it with a rough stone and then a smooth stone or wood is given, until the surface becomes smooth and leathery, and is all ready as a canvas to be painted on.

Surajkund Crafts Mela, 2017

The 31st Surajkund Crafts Mela (Fair), the Biggest Crafts Fair in the World, is celebrating from 1st to 15th of February 2017.

One of biggest assembly and showcase of Artisans and Craftsmen all around India (and abroad), the 2015 edition of this fair was visited by 1.2 million visitors including 160,000 foreigners with more than 20 countries participating into it.

The Mela is organized by the Surajkund Mela Authority & Haryana Tourism in collaboration with Union Ministries of Tourism, Textiles, Culture and External Affairs. For the 31st Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2017, the state of Jharkhand has been chosen to be the Theme State. At least 20 countries & all the states of India will be participating in the Mela.

Location & Direction

At a glance

The fair was first started in 1987. Traditional craftsmen (artists, painters, weavers and sculptors) from all parts of the country participate in this annual celebration. Designer items created by the best designers and craftsmen in wood, metal, bamboo, iron, glass, textiles and stone can be seen here.

A large number of renowned national and international folk artistes and cultural groups present day performances at both the Chaupals, the open-air theatres, located in the Mela premises. Also enthralling cultural evening programmes are held at the main Chaupal during each of the Mela evening. The Mela is indeed a custodian of the heritage crafts involving use of traditional skills that are fading away due to cheap machine made imitations, and a special section is marked for showcasing of these heritage crafts.

Born2C organizes full day guided trips to the fair. See the daily trip program to Surajkund Mela.

Mela Venue Guides

The whole Surajkund Crafts Mela premises are divided and planned in 6 zones.

Here are the venue maps and guides for each of the zones (click on the image to see full guide).

Partner Countries

Several countries and nations participate in the Surajkund Crafts Mela every year. And one of those nations are chosen to be the focus nation. This year in 2017   Egypt  is the focus nation of 31st edition of the fair.

  • 2009 – Egypt
  • 2012 – Thailand
  • 2013 – Several countries from Africa
  • 2014 – Sri Lanka
  • 2015 – Lebanon
  • 2016 – China, Japan (as part of Year 2016 was declared as Year of China in India as mutual agreement between the two countries)

Surajkund Crafts Mela Highlights

Being the biggest extravaganza of arts and crafts all over the world, the mela is of course all about showcasing and exhibiting Crafts items from various places. Participation of all the states are confirmed in this fair. In addition to 20 more countries are bringing their own arts, cultures, crafts, food and more.
Surajkund Mela 2016
Cultural programs are other main attraction of the fair. The celebration marks the performances of folk artists from around the world at open-air theaters.
With all these states and countries are coming along with their own authentic cuisines, imagine the number of choices you would have to satisfy your appetite!

The Art of Block Printing

Block Printing is the ancient craft of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is one of the oldest types of printmaking, and has been around for thousands of years. Scraps of cloth found in the ruins of  Mohenjo Daro, an ancient city of the Indus Valley Civilization, provide evidence that block printing was practiced in India as long ago as 3000 BCE. The process of block printing takes time, team work and especial skill.

The three main tools of a block printed fabric are the wooden blocks, the fabric and the dye.   Block printing can be done with wood, linoleum, rubber, or many other materials.

The Process

  • First step is to sketch the design.  It is important to reverse the image if you are using text, as the printed image will be the reverse of what is on the block.  Once the image is ready, It can then be transferred on to the linoleum or wood to give an outline of where to carve.
  • Next is to carve the design.  Carving is done on the parts which you don’t want to print, as the ink will be applied to the raised surfaces to print the design. Carving a block can take anywhere from an hour for a small piece, to several weeks or even months depending on the size and detail of the image.
  • The fabric to be printed is first washed free of starch.
  • If tie-dyeing is required, this is done before the printing process. In case fabric is dyed, it is washed thereafter, to remove excess color. It is dried in the sun.
  • The fabric is then stretched over the printing table and secured with pins.
  • Color is mixed separately and kept ready. So are the blocks. The blocks are made of teak wood and hand-carved. They are soaked in oil for 10-15 days to soften the timber.
  • The color is kept in a tray which rests on another tray that contains a liquid made of glue and pigment binder. This gives the color a soft base and permits even spreading of color on the block.
  • When printing begins, the color is first evened out in the tray. Then the block is dipped in the outline color.
  • The block is pressed down hard on the fabric, to make a clear impression. Thereafter, other blocks are used to fill in color.
  • Once the fabric is printed, it is dried in the sun. It is then rolled in newspaper to prevent the fabric layers from sticking to each other.
  • The fabric is then steamed.
  • Thereafter, it is washed in water and dried in the sun.
  • Ironing is the final stage.



Vegetable or Natural Block Printing Inks

  1. Black: This color is produced by mixing an acidic solution of iron (rusted nails/horse shoes etc) with jaggery (unrefined country sugar) that has been allowed to rot for about a fortnight.
  2. Red: This dye is made by a material such as alizarin with alum. The resulting colors range from pink to dark red. The color red is also extracted from the madder root.
  3. Blue: Is obtained from the indigo bush found all over India.

Pomegranate skins, the bark of the mango tree, vinegar and slaked lime are also used to make block printing inks.

Block Printing Pigment Inks

These colors are first mixed with kerosene and binder before they are used. Once mixed, they can be stored for a few days. Pigment inks are popular because of this and also because they give a variety of hues. They can also be mixed with each other to create new shades. Moreover, they do not change color once they dry on the cloth. Therefore the artist knows exactly what shade he will get once the fabric is printed.

It must be kept in mind that it is vital that the consistency of this block printing ink be right; if too thick it will stick out in lumps on the textile.

Block Printing Rapid Fast Colors

These inks come in the standard colors: black, orange, brown, red and mustard. Unlike pigment inks that may be mixed to create unique colors, rapid fast colors are limited in color variation, and also it is not possible to know the final color from before. When using these colors, the ground color and the color in the design are printed in one step. Rapid fast colors cannot be stored.

Block Printing Discharge Dyes

If printing in white or other light color has to be done on a dark cloth, the block printing ink to be used is the discharge dye. This dye contains a chemical that reacts with the dark color and bleaches it, while at the same time coloring the bleached area with the desired light color.

In Rajasthan, colorful prints of birds, animals, human figures, gods and goddesses are popular. The important centers for this form of hand printing are Jaipur, Bangru, Sanganer, Pali and Barmer.

  • Sanganer is famous for its Calico printed bed covers, quilts and saris. In Calico printing, the outlines are first printed, and then the color is filled in. Bold patterns and colors are popular. They are printed repeatedly in diagonal rows.
  • Bagru is famous for its Syahi-Begar prints and Dabu prints. The former are designs in a combination of black and yellow ochre or cream. The later are prints in which portions are hidden from the dye by applying a resist paste.
  • Barmer is known for its prints of red chilies with blue-black outlines, surrounded by flower-laden trees. The other famous prints are of horses, camels, peacocks and lions, called Sikar and Shekahawat prints.


Experience this ancient craft of Rajasthan with our Born2C program