This three-tiered painting represents the medieval tradition of itinerant professionals/ entertainers who used large size cloth paintings to visually support their narratives – folklores and lilas of gods. Some of the better known examples of this genre are Paithan painting of Maharashtra, Pabujukipar of Rajasthan and Patachitras of Orissa and Midanapur. This painting, rendered using narrative style of Midanapur Patachitras, represents some major events from the life of Rama. On extreme left in the top panel Rama and Lakshmana are with sage Vishvamitra. Rama kills Tadka, the demoness, for obstructing recluses from performing yajnas. The next event relates to redemption of Ahilya who cursed by her husband had turned into stone. In the next episode, Ravana, disguised as a recluse, is abducting Sita. In the fourth event Rama is seen killing the golden deer. The central panel relates to Rama’s meeting with Hanuman and other subsequent events up to the construction of bridge over the sea to Lanka by Nala, Neela and other monkeys. The bottom panel depicts some random themes. Two images of the goddess Mansadevi apart, it depicts a woman immolating herself with her dead husband, and another, sacrificing two human beings, the wide-spread social evils.
In characteristic Warli idiom the painting discovers life around the meadow. Different species of animals, birds, vipers, frogs, spiders, scorpions, and even man, not seeking to distinguish himself, populate this world. Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife, as the novelist Thomas Hardy defined it, it is pure life without a sign of death, decay or distortion.
Arpana requested the artist to paint single tree-form in some works. Though all folk artists have a tendency to fill-in the whole space, this single tree molit was painted on her request. Otherwise an ordinary tree with Pipal tree-like leaves and Bata or banyan tree-like roots, it is more like a motif to be read in between the lines : “protect the earth as also the sky for life sustains by both”. The tree, painted here, has roots into the earth but also in the space above suggesting the alike significance of both for life.
Dance, which with a wave-like curving horizontal line, stretched from one end to other, dividing the canvas into two parts, is the focal point of the painting. The dancers, clad in green and yellow, alternate each other in succession. Contained in a roundel over its recessed centre is symbolic representation of universe – sky, mountains, earth, river, ocean, human and animal life, vegetation … Corners below portray various aspects of life.
The painting represents the ages-long phenomenon of herdsmen and women of Rajasthani deserts migrating with their cattle, as soon as the summer set in, to areas where they had for them water and fodder. Discovering figures and forms with white against a deep monochromatic back-ground, black, maroon or other, and distinguishing one specie from the other by using any single feature, as thuds to differentiate a cow and a bull, or style of hair dressing to distinguish a man and woman, is the most characteristic feature of Warli art. The black negative space above was added on the request of Arpana Caur.
Here is a picture of life, full of delight and no trace of gloom. A man on the top close to the dancing ring is dragging his female partner to the dance, as if everyone’s participation was a mandate, social or religious. As it begins with a trumpet-player in its centre and ends with a dancer holding a flower in her hand, the sound defines its axis and beauty its end. In the painting’s centre is a bride with her groom riding a horse. All around are auspices, a calf sucking its mother, a woman carrying ‘mangala-ghata’ – auspicious pot, the other, a pot with water, another, caressing a bird, yet another, worshipping a tree.
The artist has divided the canvas for serialising harvesting related activities. Bottom right is the field with ripe crop; above it are portrayed various activities – harvesting, making bundles, piling them, cooking food, chasing away animals and, the circular area on the left is the granary used for threshing grains from husk.