A folk artwork

Tracing Histories: Folk Art: Gond Art


For this edition of Folk Art History, we will be looking at Gond Art. Gond painting, stemming from the Gond tribal community situated in central India, stands as a noteworthy manifestation of indigenous cultural expression, encapsulating a convergence of cultural, spiritual, and artistic motifs. Functioning as a traditional folk art form, Gond art serves as a reservoir for the preservation and propagation of Gond tribal heritage, encompassing a spectrum of cultural manifestations, including Gond painting, folk dances, songs, and ritualistic observances. Tracing its lineage back approximately 1400 years to the Mesolithic Period, Gond art represents a venerable facet of India's cultural heritage. Known interchangeably as ‘Pardhan Art’ or ‘Jangarh kalam,’ Gond art is distinguished by its intricate patterning, vibrant chromatics, and subtle humor, reflective of the profound affinity of the Gond community with the natural world.

A black and white folk painting
Jangarh Singh Shyam

Gond Tribe

The Gond tribe, constituting one of the preeminent indigenous communities in India, inhabits heterogeneous regions spanning Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh. Primarily engaged in agrarian pursuits or reliant on daily wage labour, the socio-economic fabric of the Gond tribe is intricately interwoven with their ecological milieu, epitomizing a reciprocal rapport with the natural ecosystem.


The term "Gond" finds its etymological roots in "Kond," signifying verdant mountains, indicative of the geographical context of the tribal settlement amidst the lush terrain of Madhya Pradesh. Central to Gond cosmology is the reverence for visual imagery, wherein encounters with auspicious representations are believed to portend prosperity and well-being. While Madhya Pradesh serves as the epicenter of Gond art, its influence extends across diverse regions encompassing Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. Characterized by bold lines, dots, and dashes, Gond art embodies a distinctive aesthetic heritage.

Colourful folk Painting
An anecdote from the Gond epic the annihilation of sanbarah, the boar. Jangarh Singh Shyam, 1992, Museum of Photography, Bangalore. 

Gond Art: Themes & Colours

The evolution of contemporary Gond art paintings can be discerned through the lineage of traditional art forms such as Digna and Bhittichitra. Digna, typified by geometric configurations, traditionally embellishes the architectural surfaces of Gond dwellings, while Bhittichitra encompasses intricate murals on house walls, often featuring motifs drawn from the indigenous flora and fauna of the Gond landscape. These artistic practices signify an intimate interconnection between the Gond community and their natural environment. Functioning as mural art, Gond art painting employs natural pigments and materials in its creation process. Surfaces, typically walls and floors, are meticulously prepared by cleaning and coating them with chhui, a white clay serving as a primary pigment. Brushes, known as koochi, are fashioned from tree bark fibers, with sharpened twigs utilized for delicate line work. Pigments, sourced from geru soil, coal, cow dung, and ochre clay, yield hues of red, orange, black, green, and yellow, contributing to the ephemeral nature of these paintings often crafted for festivals or communal gatherings.

A prominent motif in Gond art is the Mahua Tree, symbolizing life and sustenance for the community. Depictions of local deities such as Phulvari Devi, Jalharin Devi, and Marathi Devi also feature prominently.

Gond artists employ a vibrant palette sourced primarily from natural materials, including charcoal, colored soils, plant extracts, leaves, and cow dung. Specific colorants, such as black from charcoal and yellow from ramraj soil, contribute to the rich visual tapestry of Gond art. Through the judicious utilization of locally available raw materials and indigenous artistic techniques, Gond artists imbue their paintings with a profound sense of cultural identity and ecological consciousness.


One of the most well-known Gond artists was Jangarh Singh Shyam. One can view his works at the MAP Museum. The latter half of the 20th century witnessed a renewed interest in indigenous art forms across India, spurred by efforts to preserve cultural diversity and empower marginalized communities. Gond art, with its rich heritage and aesthetic appeal, emerged as a symbol of tribal identity and cultural pride, attracting attention from art collectors, scholars, and enthusiasts worldwide. Government initiatives, non-profit organizations, and cultural institutions played a crucial role in providing platforms for Gond artists to showcase their talents, participate in workshops, and access markets beyond their local communities.

Amidst the prevailing backdrop of cultural globalization and encroaching modernity, Gond painting stands as a resilient symbol of indigenous creativity and heritage preservation. Its continued relevance underscores the imperative of safeguarding and promoting the diverse array of artistic traditions that contribute to the rich tapestry of culture.

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