Friday, January 8, 2010


The Warli or Varli are an Indian Scheduled Tribe. These indigenous people live in talukas of the Thane, Nasik and Dhule districts of Maharashtra, the Valsad District of Gujarat, and the Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu union territories. They have their own beliefs, life and customs which have little in common with Hinduism. The Warlis speak an unwritten Varli language mingling Sanskrit, Marathi and Gujarati words. The word Warli is derived from warla, meaning "piece of land" or "field".
Their extremely rudimentary wall paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary: a circle, a triangle and a square. The circle and triangle come from their observation of nature, the circle representing the sun and the moon, the triangle derived from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square seems to obey a different logic and seems to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land. So the central motive in each ritual painting is the square, the cauk or caukat (pronounced "chauk" or "chaukat"); inside it we find Palaghata, the mother goddess, symbolizing fertility. Significantly, male gods are unusual among the Warli and are frequently related to spirits which have taken human shape. The central motif in these ritual paintings is surrounded by scenes portraying hunting, fishing and farming, festivals and dances, trees and animals. Human and animal bodies are represented by two triangles joined at the tip; the upper triangle depicts the trunk and the lower triangle the pelvis. Their precarious equilibrium symbolizes the balance of the universe, and of the couple, and has the practical and amusing advantage of animating the bodies.
The Warli use only white for their paintings. Their white pigment is a mixture of rice paste and water with gum as a binding. They use a bamboo stick chewed at the end to make it as supple as a paintbrush. The wall paintings are mostly done only for special occasions such as weddings or harvests.

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