Tribal Arts Tour of India - Bhil, Sohrai, Khovar, Paitkar

Tribal Arts Tour of India - Bhil, Sohrai, Khovar, Paitkar

Hello readers! Hope you are enjoying this new series on Folk / Tribal arts of India. This month, let's understand the importance of folk art and then on our journey, we will visit Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Significance of folk / tribal arts:
Folk / tribal arts are a medium to narrate stories. These stories are of their customs and culture, their deities and beliefs, daily life, interaction with nature, celebrations and festivals. The narratives convey the cultural identity and shared values of the communities. It is an important tool for historians or anthropologists to understand the ancient culture and its evolution. These arts are largely utilitarian or decorative in nature which provide a source of earning livelihood for the artisans. 

Our next stop is Madhya Pradesh:
State - Madhya Pradesh
Tribal art - Bhil Art (believed to be the oldest surviving form of Indian painting and has been practised for over two millennia.) Bhil art is an extension of Gond art. Here is a fascinating article comparing the 2 styles. 
Location - inhabitants of Madhya Pradesh (Dhar, Jhabua, Khargone and Ratlam districts), Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan  They can trace their ancestry to Eklavya and Valmiki, who, they say, were actually from their community.
Materials used - the pigments are made from natural materials like leaves and flowers and neem twigs are used as brushes to create their art.


The pioneer of Bhil art is Bhuri Bai

Bhil Art painting by Bhuri Bai_ Image credit: First post

BHURI BAI, Untitled, c 2018 Poster color on paper

Image credit: First post

The Bhils use a pattern of dots to fill in their paintings, which are surprisingly similar to Australian Aboriginal art. The paintings usually consist of large, un-lifelike shapes of everyday characters in earthy, bright colours, and then covered with an overlay of uniform dots in several patterns that stand out against the background.

The dots on a Bhil painting are not random. They are patterns that could be made to represent anything that the artists wish to, from ancestors to deities. 


Bhil Art is instinctive and primordial, born out of an ancient connection with nature. Every painting is a story of the land told through the depictions of people, animals, trees, deities, legends and lore.

State - Jharkhand

Tribal art - Sohrai,  Khovar  & Paitkar
Location - Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand
Materials used -walls painted with black and white earth as background, comb, natural pigments etc.

‘Soh’ means to drive away and ‘rai’ is a stick, denoting domestication of cattle used for farming, and amassing wealth. Sohrai is a harvest and cattle festival celebrated around November - December. Pashupati (Lord of animals, Shiva), Kamlaban (Forest of lotuses) Tree of life, elephants and tigers are some of the subjects depicted in the sohrai murals. Basic colours are used such as ochre, black, red and white.
Sohrai art. Image credit- Pulitzer Center
Image credit: Pulitzer Center

Khovar (Kho is cave and Vara means bridal couple) art is traditionally for decorating the marriage chamber of the bride and groom. It usually depicts fertility symbols celebrating union and propagation. Animals such as parrots, peacocks and fruit bearing trees of neighbouring forests and valleys are popular symbols depicted in these paintings. 

Khovar painting on a wall. Image credit: Sunday Guardian

Image credit: Sunday Guardian Live

Paitkar paintings are similar to scroll paintings narrating interesting stories about life, legends and mythology. They are prepared by ‘Chitrakars’ from  Amadubi village which was once known for its painters or ‘Chitrakaars’. This famed tribe of artists would travel from kingdom to kingdom, telling stories about their travels through song, dance, and their special scroll paintings.

Paitkar painting. Image credit: Theheritageobserver

Image credit: The Heritage Observer

Start your own tribal art collection with pieces here

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

Left Continue shopping
Your Order

You have no items in your cart

Liquid error (layout/theme line 109): Could not find asset snippets/spurit_uev-theme-snippet.liquid