There is evidence that shows mural architecture exists in India since the Paleolithic period. These prehistoric wall artworks can be witnessed at Bhimbetka cave, Madhya Pradesh. Most of these works were around 30,000 years old and were unable to preserve due to the Indian climatic condition. 

There are also historic Indian murals that can be found in natural caves and rock-cut chambers from the 2nd Century BC. These artistic works are portrayed at Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra and Armamalai cave in Tamil Nadu. Gradually, these murals developed their style in various parts of India.

This article will highlight the different traditional mural architecture existing in various parts of India. It would deepen our knowledge about folk murals and broaden our thoughts on the use of these inspirational masterpieces for interior and exterior wall design. 

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Indian Mural at Ajanta Cave_www.wodermondo.com

01. Madhubani Mural Painting

Locate: Bihar

Madhubani mural painting originated from the Mithila region of Bihar. This traditional artwork is painted on the wall by the ladies. There is the use of various tools such as twigs, matchsticks, brushes, nib-pens and fingers. 

This masterpiece throws light on the Hindu mythological stories of Ram-Sita, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and the wedding of Krishna-Rukmani. This folk art also portrays the flora-fauna and lifestyle of humans transformed from ancient to modern times. 

This mural architecture is striking and attractive due to the application of interesting geometric patterns filled with vibrant organic colours. The meaning of the word ‘Madhubani’ is ‘Forest of Honey’ from where one would learn about the Hindu cultures.

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Madhubani Mural_www.pinterest.com

02. Kaavi Mural Painting

Locate: Goa, Coastal Maharashtra and Karnataka

The term ‘Kaavi’ is derived from the Devanagari script and it refers to the Indian red pigment implemented in this mural painting. This reddish-brown natural dye is obtained from the laterite soil and is applied to the white sandblast made from the snow-white lime. This mural architecture is evident on the walls of the temples, houses, and Roman-Catholic churches.  

Unfortunately, this unique artwork is gradually declining due to a lack of restoration. This dying folk art can be revived by applying it to the interior or exterior walls. This would enhance the beauty of the wall and also promote the Kaavi mural painting.

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Kaavi Mural on the Laxmi-Narayan Temple in Karnataka_www.wikipedia.com

03. Pithora Mural Painting

Locate: Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat

Pithora mural art is a special tribal ritual in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Horses, sun and moon are the three important elements painted on the wall made of an amalgamation of cow dung and mud. In the mural artwork, the seven horses are painted to portray the seven hills surrounding the two states. 

This marks an auspicious ceremony in the community of Rathwa and Bhilala tribes. This mural architecture is painted within a rectangular box and reflects other human activities such as farming, ploughing, hunting, dancing and singing. 

These figures are painted by using natural bright pigments such as white clay, red, yellow, orange, blue and green. The peculiar representation of nature and human lifestyle makes this an inspirational mural.  

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Pithora Mural_www.sahapedia.org

04. Lippan Kaam

Locate: Gujarat

Lippan Kaam is a craft made by blending mirrors and mud. This art is mainly practised by the ladies of the Rabari community of Kutch where they prepare a mixture of mud by blending clay with camel dung. This lowers the inside temperature of the house. 

The tiny pieces of mirrors are embedded into the mud wall in a geometrical pattern which usually depicts a moral story, people’s simple lifestyle and nature. This unique meticulous work grabs several attentions worldwide which makes this mural architecture one of the influential artwork.

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Lippan Kaam on the Wall of Kutch House_www.indiamart.com

05. Sohrai Painting

Locate: Jharkhand and West Bengal

Sohrai painting is a pre-historic tribal art which is continuing since 10,000- 4000 BC. The word ‘Sohrai’ has been derived from ‘Soro’ which is a word of the Palaeolithic period. This mural architecture is usually seen on the wall of the tribal house during the harvest season and weddings occasions. 

Organic pigments are used such as manganese black or black mud, yellow ochre or yellow mud, red oxide or red mud and white mud. The first stroke of this art starts with a red line which reflects the blood of the ancestors. This is followed by a black stroke which portrays the dead stone and mark of Lord Shiva. 

The use of earthen materials and elements makes this painting an eco-friendly and sustainable art.

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Sohrai Mural on the Wall of Farmers House_www.kalaform.com

06. Warli Painting

Locate: Maharashtra

Warli painting is one of the finest examples of Indian folk art. This mural artwork earned its recognition around the 1970s although it had been since the 10th Century AD. The tribal art portrays nature and human activities by using mud walls as the background. In this mural architecture, the Sun and the moon are represented in the shape of a circle. 

Similarly, the triangle reflects the mountain and the conical trees and the square indicates a sacred piece of land invented by the human. The representation of nature with the use of simple geometric shapes has brought limelight to this ancient mural painting.

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Warli Mural_www.turnslow.com

07. Saura Painting

Locate: Odisha 

Saura mural painting is invented by the Saura tribes of Southern Odisha. This tribal art might look very similar to Maharashtra’s Warli mural painting as both use simple geometric shapes to represent nature and human figures. 

On comparing these two tribal artworks, we could notice that in Saura painting the human figures are depicted by using two sharp elongated triangles conjoined at the apex. It uses the ‘fishnet’ approach where the main composition is at the centre and is defined by a border.  

This mural architecture can be seen on the walls of the houses at Raghurajpur, an artisan village famous for its creative art and craftworks.

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Saura Mural on the Wall of Raghurajpur House_www.pinterest.com

08. Thape Painting

Locate: Rajasthan

Thape mural artwork is a traditional artwork painted to decorate the entrance of the house, walls and doors. This beautiful bright coloured mural can be noticed during auspicious occasions and ceremonies. There are available natural materials used as the colour pigments like the other Indian folk paintings. 

These natural dyes are turmeric, henna, red ochre and kumkum. This eye-captivating mural painting is also known for its spiritual beliefs to invoke the deities and should be popularised by implementing in the interiors and exteriors of the houses in urban areas.

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Thape Mural_www.gettyimages.com

09. Thangka Painting

Locate: Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh

Thangka painting is a Tibetan art derived from the Buddhist paintings at Ajanta caves and Mogao caves on the Silk Road. The composition of this mural artwork is painted in an extremely geometrical fashion. 

For example, various human parts are laid on a symmetric grid of angles and intersecting lines. Water-soluble animal glue is used as the natural colour dye in this painting. This mural architecture can be observed on the walls of the monastery where it represents the symbolic meaning of nature and human figures.

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Thangka Painting on the Wall of Tibetian Monastery_www.yatrablog.com

10. Aipan Art

Locate: Uttarakhand

The word ‘Aipan’ means ‘to pigment’ by using a white coloured and water-soluble paste made of rice. This paste is applied on the red coloured ochre wall of the house during any auspicious events or rituals. This mural architecture is composed of various geometric rhythmic patterns created by using lines and dots. 

It is a traditional folk art abundantly found in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. This lesser-known art is gaining its popularity as the younger generations are being inspired and practising this priceless artwork. This example can be found in a small village of Uttarakhand named Khati. 

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Aipan Mural on the Wall of Khati Village_www.wisewallproject.com

These inspirational mural architectures are eco-friendly as always there have been uses of organic pigments. Each of these magnificent artworks has a unique style of depicting humans and their surroundings. This feature makes these wall paintings more interesting and distinct among themselves. All these mural paintings should be encouraged and incorporated into the design of interior or exterior walls. This would become populous among the people to implement it while designing.

References

01) Online Source: ChitraSanthe | The Lost Lander

02) Online Source: Indian painting – Wikipedia

03) Online Source: Madhubani art – Wikipedia

04) Online Source: Madhubani Paintings | Mithila Art | Paintings | ArtZolo.com

05) Online Source: Kaavi art – Wikipedia

06) Online Source: Pithora Painting [UPSC Notes] (byjus.com)

07) Online Source: Mud mirror art – Wikipedia

08) Online Source: Sohrai: The Traditional Harvest art of Jharkhand – SHURUA(R)T (shuru-art.com)

09) Online Source: Warli painting – Wikipedia

10) Online Source: Saura Art – The Story of an Ancient Indian Tribe Through Their Captiva – Artisera

11) Online Source: Rajasthan Folk Arts (southtourism.in)

12) Online Source: Thangka – Wikipedia

13) Online Source: Wise Wall Project

Sonu Mohanty
Author

An architect and interior designer by profession. A passionate traveller who developed inquisitiveness on expanding her knowledge and gathering information on different styles of designs and architecture around the world. She strongly believes that nature and history plays a key role in the field of architecture.

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