Painted Prayers


Why do the Bhils paint? Hear it in their own voice.

Camera and Interviews: Rishabh Dwivedi, Editing and Animation: Piyush Verma and Ashwin Vasudevan, Project Lead: Nina Sabnani

Distinctive Dots 

Stories, prayers, memories and traditions are painted onto plain backgrounds in a symphony of multihued dots. The first step to learning the art for many Bhil artists began with mastering the dots— skillfully repeating equal sized, uniform dots in rhythmic patterns and colours. The dots are the distinct identity of Bhil art, and have multiple layers of symbolism. Inspired by the kernels of maize—their staple food and crop—each group of dots often represents a particular ancestor or deity. Additionally, each artist composes the dots in distinctive patterns encoding each art work with signatures visible to the trained eye.

Traditional Art

The history of its art is as old and as veiled in mystery as the Bhils themselves, however Pithora Painting, Gatlas and Kothi Relief Work are some better known art forms. These ritualistic paintings were done by badwas or specially appointed male members. Although the traditional forms are still practiced, Bhil art today is expressed largely as acrylic paintings on canvas. And J. Swaminathan was a key figure in encouraging the artists and integrating them with the globalized art world.



In this important Bhil tradition, a memorial stone or “Gatala” is made in the crop fields to commemorate family members who died in the past year. The Gatala depicts a man riding the horse with the sun and moon decorating the top left and right. The badwa (holy priest) decides which date the Gatala will be sanctified. Then, family members pray and request the spirit to take care of the family and entire village. Special alcohol is prepared from the Mahua flower and five goats are sacrificed. And, all village members are invited for feasting and drinking to appease the spirit.



Artwork on Paper

Artwork on Canvas

Artwork on Walls