The Gonds are among the largest tribes in Central India, numbering about 4 million. Though predominantly centered in Madhya Pradesh, they are present in significant numbers in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The word “Gond” comes from the Dravidian expression kond, meaning “the green mountain.” The recorded history of the Gond people goes back 1400 years, but considering that they inhabit areas where rock paintings dating to the Mesolithic have been found, their antecedents probably date back even further. Many of the Gonds customs echo that of their Mesolithic forbearers. An obvious example of this is the custom of decorating the walls of their houses, an activity that may originate in cave-dwelling traditions of their ancestors.
The work of Gond artists is rooted in their folk tales and culture, and thus story-telling is a strong element of every painting.
The Gonds paint their walls with vibrant depictions of local flora, fauna and gods such as Marahi Devi and Phulvari Devi (Goddess Kali). Traditionally made on festive occasions such as Karwa Chauth, Diwali, Ashtami and Nag Panchmi, Gond painting depicts various celebrations, rituals and man’s relationship with nature. The artists use natural colors derived from charcoal, colored soil, plant sap, leaves, and cow dung. This mystical art form is created by putting together dots and lines. The imaginative use of the line imparts a sense of movement to the still images. The paintings are an offering in worship of nature, and are also a mode of seeking protection and warding off evil.
The signature styles are the essence of this tribal art form and are intrinsically used to fill the surface of their decorative patterns and motifs. The allusiveness and individualism of each Gond artist is defined by these signature styles of fine lines, dots and dashes.
Painted in several bright colors, the placement of motifs showcasing village life and the blending of human figures with rituals and nature depict the Gonds inherited skills and creativity. In the eyes of a Gond artist, everything is sacred and intimately connected to nature. Thus, the unique oral narrative tradition of the Gonds is reflected in their paintings as well. The work of Gond artists is rooted in their folk tales and culture, and thus story-telling is a strong element of every painting. However every artist today has a personal style and has developed a specific language within these narratives creating a richness of aesthetic forms and styles.