Explore The Mesmerizing Tribal Arts of Madhya Pradesh!

By Rohin Raj on Dec 19, 2016
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The vast Indian subcontinent throughout its recorded history has seen the rise and fall of great civilizations, new religions being born & nurtured and become a melting pot for various cultures to intermingle & flourish. Though history remembers and recognizes great rulers, their kingdoms and exploits, the significance of some of the most ancient Indian natives is lost in the sands of time. Tribal folks, or Adivasis, as they are referred to in Hindi, have called India home since time immemorial, predating even the Vedic era.
Madhya Pradesh is one of the Indian states with a sizeable number of Adivasis still existing in their natural habitat and sticking to their ancient traditions. Though modernization has forced them to look for alternate means of survival, one aspect that they have stayed true to is their love for arts and crafts. Tribal art is still much sought after, and provides many tribes a consistent source of income. Skills, honed with countless years of practice, have passed on orally and visually amongst families. Two of the major tribes that have a very significant presence in Tribal art forms in Madhya Pradesh are the Bhils and Gonds. Apart from these 2, the Baiga, Korku, Mariya, Sahariya and many others have also played essential roles in the development of Adivasi arts and crafts.
Some of the most spectacular Tribal art forms that are the pride of Madhya Pradesh are:

Mandana Paintings

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Usually drawn for religious and auspicious ceremonies, Mandanas are intricate floor paintings, so symmetrical and visually stunning, that it looks impossible to replicate them by hand. The surface is usually prepared with a mix of clay, cow dung and red soil, while patterns are drawn with chalk or lime powder.
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Chitravan and Pana

A very fascinating art form of Madhya Pradesh, Chitravan also has roots in religious ceremonies. These exceptionally beautiful wall paintings usually show depictions of celestial beings, animals & birds, gods-goddesses and plants. The painting requires extreme dexterity as no outline is drawn initially and each stroke shapes the final design. When these paintings are presented on paper, they take the name Pana.

Pithora Paintings

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Prevalent amongst the Bhil tribes of Madhya Pradesh, Pithora paintings are more than just wonderful figures and patterns. Holding great religious importance, the creation of these art works involve a complete ceremony accompanied by music and dancing. What is interesting to note here is that earlier versions used to depict animals, plants and surrounding objects, and the ones present now have modern depictions like cars, planes, bikes and guns!

Gond Paintings

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Originated in the tribal community Gond which also happens to be one of the largest Adivasi communities of India, the Gond Paintings comprise of intricately designed motifs and tattoos. What sets this art apart is the thought process that goes behind the creation of each piece. The Gond art form fuels on the ideology of "viewing a good image garners good luck” and hence, these art pieces have adorned the walls of the huts of the community since ages. The art pieces are today available on a canvas and the dashes, dots and fine lines filled in unique shapes give it a striking edge. The bright colors state the individualism of this art form which also gained accolades internationally.


Thapa drawings are usually made by women using household items like sindoor, ghee, kumkum and mehendi mixed with cow dung. The patterns are usually hand prints with varied depictions of gods and goddesses usually in a single color, though multiple colors might also be used. The spectacular patterns, drawn with utmost perfection, are supposed to protect the household from evil spirits and ailments. 

Gudna Motifs

Image Source: Wikipedia.org

Practiced primarily by Gonds and Bhils, Gudna is not merely another wall or ground painting art form. This style of painting is performed on the body of tribe men and women! The body parts are pierced with a needle and this piercing is injected with lamp soot, harsingar flower juice or kumkum for adding color. This is used to create different patterns on the body parts which are supposed to ward off all evil, help in fertility and a prosperous harvest.

Bhareva Shilp

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Bhareva community of Madhya Pradesh is renowned for their astounding metal crafting skills by which they create masterpieces like toys, figurines, anklets, utility items like lamps and utensils. These articles are exquisitely made and are in huge demand for all practical purposes and to serve as décor items.
Though we have tried to list few of the most popular Tribal art forms of Madhya Pradesh, mere words can simply not do justice to the incredible treasure trove of arts and crafts that the ‘Hindustan Ka Dil’ holds in its bosom! To experience and understand the miraculous work done by these Adivasis one has to see it in person! So stop making excuses, procrastinate later and rush to the majestic Madhya Pradesh for an experience so surreal, it will keep you amazed!
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