India is a land that boasts of breathtaking landscapes ranging from the gigantic Himalayas to sparkling rivers, lush green lands, valleys, hilltops, and deserts. Owing to its beauty, many artists in India take inspiration from nature to make their art.
But is painting nature a fairly new practice? We believe not! In fact, man has been painting nature for as long as he existed.
This was the period of stone-age man. Humans then knew no language to communicate. Hence, their only form of communication was through sounds and pictorial depictions. Paintings found while exploring pre-historic caves revealed vivid sketches of bison, bears, elephants, humans, trees, and more. In India, one such interesting display of cave art can be found in the Bhimbetka caves of Madhya Pradesh. It has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
As the caveman kept evolving, colonies were formed. Agriculture slowly became crucial for survival alongside hunting. They depended heavily on rains and a good harvest. Animals were domesticated to help them in the process. Because of their dependence on nature, they began worshipping it. That translated into the art they make where trees, animals, mountains, rains, rivers, etc., were depicted. This type of art was mostly made on walls.
However, as time progressed and the civilization became more advanced, artists started carving the pillars of the temples and painting on pieces of cloth using natural colors made from conch shells, charcoal, minerals, and other stones.
Examples of this can still be found in old temples and caves such as the Ajanta-Ellora Caves, Puri Jagannath Temple, etc.
During this time and the periods that followed, many art forms emerged from different states of the country. Madhubani art of the Mithila region, Gond art of Madhya Pradesh, Warli art of Maharashtra, Pattachitra of Odisha, and Murals of Kerala are some such examples. While art was made to depict scenes from mythological scriptures, gods, and goddesses, nature still remained to be a recurring theme in most of these paintings. Moreover, the original art was painted on scrolls made of cloth and natural pigments were used for coloring.
It is said that this form of art originated in the Mithila region when King Janaka ordered the walls of the palace to be painted for Devi Sita’s wedding. It went on to become a source of livelihood for many women even today. Animals and birds such as elephants, peacocks, cows, trees such as tulsi, bamboo, mango, neem, etc., gods and goddesses, moon, sun, and stars are often depicted in these paintings.
This style of art has distinct characteristics owing to its stark motifs and white pigment over brick red walls. Made by the tribes of the North Sahyadri Range of Maharashtra, Warli paintings are often found on the walls of huts and homes there. They make use of circles, squares, and triangles, to represent the sun, moon, mountains, humans, animals, etc. They worship nature and the same is profound in the art they make.
Pattachitra style of art is native to the eastern state of Odisha. Patta means a piece of cloth and Chitra means a painting. As the name suggests, these paintings are made on pieces of cloth that have been prepared specifically for this purpose. Tradition methods use natural pigments and the scenes often depict instances from mythological stories alongside nature.
To this date, these styles of art are widely celebrated in the country as well as globally for their distinct style and characteristic. They provide a livelihood to many traditional artists that have passed on the skill from one generation to another. It is crucial that we keep the art alive for it is an undeniable part of Indian culture and heritage.