The art of painting in India goes back to prehistoric times. Evidence of this is rampant in the astounding cave paintings found in Madhya Pradesh.
Drawings on walls of caves and rock shelters served a twofold purpose: decorating homes and appeasing deities. While the
adivasis (tribals) of yore traced simple, very basic forms to ward off evil spirits and disease, more sophisticated art survives in the Buddhist rock-carved monasteries of the middle of the first millennium AD, such as
Ajanta in Maharashtra and Bagh in MP.
The Rathwa Bhils of MP and eastern Gujarat commonly install a deity in the form of a ritual wall painting within the home. Outside the sacred enclosure other paintings depict incidents from daily life, usually featuring horses.
The Bhils and Bhilala tribes of Madhya Pradesh paint myths related to creation called pithora paintings. Horses, elephants, tigers, birds, gods, men and objects of daily life are painted in bright
Another form of art, widely practiced in MP is the mandana. Auspicious diagrams are drawn on the floor with rice paste, coloured powder, flower petals or grains of rice, often with symbolic motifs set within floral and geometric patterns. These are meant to attract cosmic powers for the well being of the household in which it is done.
Mughal miniature paintings also figure as a footnote in MP because the Persians of the court of Malwa were enthusiastic patrons.
In Bundelkhand, painting is usually done by a caste of professional painters called Chiteras. In the paintings of Chhattisgarh, mud plaster base is used, over which linear patterns are etched with fingers: the process is called 'Lipai'. The women of the Rajwar community are specialists in 'Lipai', whereas Pando & Satnami communities make linear designs similar to a woven fabric. Chhatisgarh is also the home of the art of tattoo which is done by women of Badi community. The tattoo patterns are complex and beautiful and have immense potential of being further modified and incorporated into designer prints.
The Bhils and Bhilala Tribes
of Madhya Pradesh paint myths related to creation called Pithora paintings. Horses, elephants, tigers, birds, gods, men and objects of daily life are painted in bright multicoloured hues. In the Gondwana region, unmatched creative vision has been shown by the Gond and the Pardhan tribes who have impressed audiences at exhibitions in Japan, France, Australia and other countries.
The Malwa, Nimar and Tanwarghar regions of Madhya Pradesh are known for their Mandana wall and floor painting traditions. Red clay and cow dung mixture is used as base material to plaster the surface against which white drawings stand out in contrast. Peacocks, cats, lions, goojari, bawari, swastik and chowk are some motifs of this style.