When the Portuguese set sail for the East in the 15th Century, and the Dutch, the French and the British followed, they were trailing the scent of our spices: black pepper, cardamom, opium. The first wave of European immigrants included sailors, emissaries, traders, and the armed forces, people who could grab the land; the next wave included doctors, cartographers, botanists, and naturalists, people who could study it. They researched Indian plants in the hope of finding new medicines and new sources of revenue, and created or commissioned thousands of drawings in the process. So, in the heart of colonialism, as a branch of its economic activities, botanical art struck roots and flourished. India’s roots, leaves, and flowers became India’s top models and global ambassadors. Read more here.
The Gonds of Madhya Pradesh are one of the largest tribes of our country and among the original inhabitants of central India. The art they make is very close to the earth and filled with natural colours. The most classical feature of a Gond painting is the in-filling: outlines are filled in with dots, dashes, waves, fans and other tiny repetitive patterns, creating a hypnotic layer of textures. Read our guide to Gond art
Tholu Bommalaata or the 'dance of leather puppets' is a living tradition of shadow puppetry performed in many states of southern India. The puppets below are from Andhra Pradesh and typically used to perform episodes from the epics, like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The colours used traditionally are red, orange, black and white, although there may be bits of blue, green and yellow in the accessories. Read more them here and here
It is believed that Mithila art originated during the time of the epic Ramayana. Sita’s father, King Janaka asks the women of Mithila, a region that encompasses portions of present-day Bihar and Nepal, to paint the walls of their homes to celebrate the wedding of his daughter with Lord Rama. It later came to be called Madhubani art for the district where the practitioners of this art are concentrated. Common themes include the wedding of Rama and Sita, the courtship of Lord Krishna and Radha and scenes from the Mahabharata. Read more here.