Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dancing on the walls!

As we approach the end of the year, we also approach the end of our vacation!:(  Like every year,  we spent our Christmas vacations at my parents' farm "Shristi" at Dharmasthala. Unlike every year though, we drove by car to Dharmasthala this year which not only allowed us to visit our extended family residing in different pockets of South Kanara, but also enabled us to carry a whole lot of luggage which wouldn't have been possible had we travelled by bus.  For instance, Abhay was thrilled to have his bicycle and cricket set loaded into the trunk!:-) Similarly, I felt relieved at not having to schedule our travel according to time-table of the KSRTC! (the inter-city public transit system at Karnataka) Anyway, as we drove up the driveway, we were delighted to be welcomed by the Warli painted wall by the entrance.  
Originally a folk art of the Warli tribe of Maharashtra, the Warli style of painting has become quite popular today and is seen fashioned onto paper, cloth and even mounted as mural paintings. This striking form of traditional art is prepared on a sober mud base with just one color, i.e. white though occasionally accompanied by yellow and red dots. Replete with geometric designs, Warli art is known for its monochromatic depictions of the folk life of its people and their socio-religious customs, traditions and beliefs. Warli art found its way onto “Shristi”, courtesy my mother’s idea that was beautifully executed by a team of award winning artists from Mangalore. The essence of a Warli painting lies in its vibrant depiction of the surrounding life and sure enough the Warli art at Shristi portrays an eclectic mix of the nature,  environment and the lives and passion of the people in and around Shristi –  be it the sun shining from the East in the mornings, or the surrounding coconut and areca plantation or the day-long activities revolving around the same, or the workforce at the farm whose well being is my parents’ uppermost concern, or the maths equation that my mother has loved and taught for over three decades – the Warli wall at Shristi has it all! J
To celebrate the alluring art of Warli at Shristi, I picked out a Tulika publication at “Dancing on the walls” by Shamim Padamsee and art by Uma Krishnaswamy. The author scrawls a fictional tale on the Warli wall of fame on how the art may have originated. A little girl living in the Sahyadri hills of Maharashtra named Shivri is all set to celebrate the harvest festival the next day. While her family goes to the market to buy a few things for the next day’s festival, Shivri stays back to surprise her parents by completing all the household chores. But soon Shivri is overwhelmed with all the tasks that lay ahead of her, including sweeping the courtyard, powdering the rice and plastering the walls with fresh cowdung! She wishes that she could do all her chores with a wave of hand! Suddenly Shivri sees tiny silvery creatures sliding down the big yellow moon and running up and down the river bank waving their stick-like limbs. As one of those creatures falls into the river, Shivri helps him out and strikes a conversation with him. She learns that these silvery white creatures (that are  ubiquitous characters in any Warli painting) are from the moon who sometimes come down to the earth to smell the flowers and listen to the birds sing. Since Shivri rescued one of them, they offer to help her finish her household chores. Within no time, they clean and powder the rice, sweep the courtyard and plaster the walls with a fresh coat of cowdung! Having completed all the task, they begin to dance merrily in a circle with some of them playing flute, clapping their hands and clicking their fingers, thus moving faster and faster. Just then someone came in and shouted to find out what was happening. This in turn startled the dancers who leapt up into the freshly plastered wall, one after another and were thus stuck on the wall with their spiral designs. When Shivri’s parents came home, they saw the beautiful pictures on the wall and assumed that it was Shivri who had drawn them and agreed that it was beautiful and something that they had never seen before! From that day on, the Warli people began to decorate their walls with shining white figures, dancing, singing, taking the cows to graze and other allied activities depicting their folk life. But only Shivri knew the secret of the dancing on the wall. This book is an interesting read and definitely makes a great introduction to one of the most animated and lively forms of traditional art in India. Truly, the buoyancy in the Warli art makes the canvas come alive with all the dancing not just on the wall but also reflected in the eyes and the mind of the beholder! On this note...here's wishing the dancing on everyone's walls and lives as well! :-)


  1. DO you know any lift the flap ones on circus

  2. There is one on zoo, it's Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

  3. For circus ....there is Dr Suess "If I ran the circus", "Olivia saves the circus" or the "Paddington at the carnival".

    For the Zoo...there is also 'Zoo" by Anthony Browne...which is awesome....waiting to feature it on Onestoryaday!