World Cultural Diversity Day 2024: Five rare Indian art forms you must know

From the intricate brushstrokes of Tanjore paintings to the soul-stirring melodies of gamaka music, these cultural expressions are not just art forms but vibrant traditions that continue to inspire and connect us
Image used for representational purpose
Image used for representational purpose

In celebration of World Cultural Diversity Day, let’s take a journey through an array of mesmerising art forms that highlight the cultural fabric of India. From the intricate brushstrokes of Tanjore paintings to the soul-stirring melodies of gamaka music, these cultural expressions are not just art forms but vibrant traditions that continue to inspire and connect us. Here are five such rare cultural treasures.

Tanjore gold paintings

Also known as palagai padam, these paintings rose to prominence during the Chola dynasty (9th-13th century) at the heart of their empire in Tanjore (Thanjavur), Tamil Nadu. These intricately detailed paintings are known for being painted on sculpted wooden surfaces along with their rich colors, glittering 18K gold foils and precious gemstones. This classical South Indian painting style often depicts Hindu gods, goddesses and saints.

Originally painted on the walls of pooja rooms and even on bases made from jackfruit, these paintings have come a long way from their Cholan roots to become a staple of Tanjore and a prestigious symbol for every buyer's walls.

Gamaka music

Generally known as a vital component of all Indian classical music, gamakas are essential for bringing life and identity to the ragas (melodic frameworks) we incorporate in the likes of carnatic or hindustani music. However, gamaka music is also a traditional form of storytelling that combines music and narration. The storyteller, or gamakavidu, sings verses from epic texts, interspersing musical renditions with explanations and elaborations. Gamaka music aims to preserve the oral traditions and classical literature of India, making ancient stories and epics accessible to contemporary audiences.

Meenakari craft

Derived from the Persian words 'meena' (enamel) and 'kari' (work), signifying the meticulous craftsmanship involved, meenakari jewellery dates back to Persia in the 16th century before coming to India and is well known for its vibrant and well involved designs. An art form known for enameling metal surfaces with various colors, meenakari was originally used to decorate the walls and furniture of Mughal palaces. Nowadays the art form is often associated with Rajasthan where the state has become known for its meenakari jewellery that has evolved through generations of artisans.

Today, meenakari is not just an art form but also a thriving industry, employing thousands of artisans across India. The craft has also been recognised by the government of India, which has set up several institutions to promote and preserve this ancient art form.

Talapatra chitra paintings

Going back to a time when just about everything was recorded on palm leaves, talapatra chitra is the lesser-known variant of the pata chittra cloth paintings that specialise in unique art designs done on the surface of palm leaves. Originated in Odisha, the art form often depicts scenes from Hindu mythology and folklore with artists using fine etching techniques to carve images onto dried palm leaves, which are then stitched together.

In recent times, these paintings have become something of a novelty souvenir for tourists visiting Eastern India, promoting local businesses and encouraging artists to discover new ways to take forward the ancient art form.

Nagaland handicrafts

Passed on through generations of tribesmen from Nagaland, these handmade works of art showcase a minimalistic and functional art style that's like no other. From furniture to jewellery, to even weapons, these traditional handicrafts are made from easily accessible materials like paddy husks and clay, which embodies the simple lifestyle of the native tribesmen in Northeast India. Each craft reflects the indigenous skills and cultural identity of the various tribes in Nagaland.

Nowadays the native people have turned a profit from their traditional craftsmanship, selling their handicrafts to tourists and visitors from various regions of the country.

(Written by Abhinav Shenoy)

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