India, the land of colours, diversity and culture is steeped in local art and traditions that vary every 100 Km. With countries swarming with festivals that bring in people from the world over to enjoy the festivities and reach euphoric heights, India is storming ahead in the festival arena with its grand, unique and immersive art festivals, that only increase and improve with every passing year. It is only fair for each state to have its unique festival that receives as much praise as others in the same category because every country has vast differences and beauty in its culture, traditions, specialties and ways of life, compared to others, which makes it unique and exquisite. Luckily, for the foreign and Indian travellers, most states do have note-worthy festivals exhibiting the best of local art forms and increasingly collaborating with global artists, bringing their exotic flavour to the global festival scene.
The earliest evidence of mural-making comes from the Buddhist cave paintings in Ajanta, Maharashtra, which were unexpectedly discovered in 1819 and date back to the 2nd-century BCE. The Ajanta murals have inspired artists and sculptors for generations and continue to be a significant part of the Indian history of art. Cultural marking of the streets has an extensive prevalence in most urban and semi-urban regions of the country. Moreover, street art and mural making have a unique mode of expression and manifestations. The hand-painted Bollywood posters, typographic signboards, truck art, slogans, images of gods painted along sidewalks or tiles affixed to walls to prevent people from urinating in public, painted advertisements by small businesses, and political graffiti provide us with some accurate instances of this unique manifestation.
Kolkata street art has evolved in a whimsical fashion where every artist uses the Bengali heritage to engrave their imagination and finally express a multifaceted experience ranging from art to protest. With prominent perfection, the street artists of Kolkata cosmeticize the choice of illustrations splashing a new look on the city’s face. For many North and Central Indians, Rangoli is a raw form of street art where powdered colours etch illustrations on streets. However, Kolkata has its rendition of a rangoli which is Alpona. It is a paste of rice powder and water used to draw figurines on the floor on any special occasion.
A major source of political discourse in Bengal comprises street art, especially wall graffiti. Earlier, political parties used caricatures to express their speech. One might still witness etchings of Che Guevera, Red Army, Soviet Union slogans in the narrow by lanes of Kolkata or old boulevards which had testified the massive Naxalite outrages. These, over some time, were replaced by a more subtle form of art. Currently, hilarious quotations and caricatures of sportsmen, cartoons, film actors can be seen.
These days though, Graffiti has gained a lot more prominence than before in India. Indian Graffiti artists have completely turned around the table with their talent. Starting from current affairs, political issues, mythology and even contemporary, these artists have covered it all. Moreover, Graffiti and Murals should not be new concepts for Indians. The first mural to be traced back in time would be in the 2nd century BC, a Buddhist Cave Painting discovered in the Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra. Also, when we do visit rural regions of our country, we would find local people painting their mud-huts with colourful designs and sometimes even murals for decorative purposes. Also, in the 80’s and 90’s we would find hand painted Bollywood movie posters everywhere around the country. All of these instances suggests that art can be visualized and conveyed through anything be it a canvas or a simple wall.
Graffiti practices started increasing in the regions of Delhi and Mumbai from the year of 2006 or 2007, when artists such as Yantra, Daku and Zine started painting off the cities and gaining prominence and attention. With the advent of street artists, street art festivals were also organized around different parts of the country. For example, St+Art India Foundation gathers a good support from various artists across the country and keep organizing various events with them and for them. The whole purpose of this foundation is to create murals to beautify public spaces but with due permission and as well give recognition to the artists within the process. The Delhi, Shillong and The Kolkata Art Festival by Jogen Choudhury have also added to the promotion of street artists.
Some of the must visit places to see and explore street art in India are as follows-