There was a time when the Indian sub-continent was blessed with an amazing variety of natural life, made possible by diverse geographical features and climatic conditions. Innumerable early communities, which we now refer to as tribes or adivasis, lived as an integral part of nature, harvesting its bounties. Even though each tribe had its own lifestyle, specific habitat, food habits, customs and rituals, it shared a common divinity with the others. Nature was their God, their guide, their very reason for being.
However, as we all are so acutely aware, radical change has mutated the sub-continent. The abundance of natural life has been depleted and towns, cities and metropolises have mushroomed. Even though these changes have taken place, tribal communities still persist, holding on to their way of life, in settlements spanning the length and breadth of the country – sometimes living in little pockets very close to highly civilized and modern cities, sometimes far away in isolated cloisters, along the sea coast, in dense forests or snow clad mountains. They are a vital part of the country’s living heritage.
In the state of Maharashtra alone there are communities belonging to forty-seven different tribes living along the western coast of India. This accounts for 9% of the total population and ranks third with respect to the tribal population in the country. One of the communities living here are the Warlis. Although in recent years their decorative art has been celebrated and has gained wide acceptance, little is known about these people.