Art, Music, Dance and Textile Traditions of Maharashtra

  • This article comprehensively tells you about the different forms of art, dance, crafts, poetry, music and textile traditions of Maharashtra.

The land of Maharashtra is known for its varied, vibrant and vivacious culture. A land that was guarded by the invincible and beloved warrior-king Shivaji Maharaj and nourished by the great Maratha rulers! The rich culture and simplistic, pragmatic lifestyle of people of the state stem from its multitudinous arts and traditions that have been revered and preserved over centuries. Despite heavy industrialisation and modernization, there are several places in Maharashtra that have well-conserved the traditional professions, arts, and crafts native to those regions.

Let us take a look at these arts and crafts native to the state of Maharashtra.

1. Arts & Crafts

Warli Paintings

Warli paintings derive their name from the Warli tribe which is the largest tribe found in Thane district, present in the northern outskirts of Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Warli, the word, comes from warla, which means a piece of land or a field. The daily and social life of the warli tribesmen is depicted through art that is displayed on the walls of the village houses. The paintings depict human figures engaged in activities like dancing, hunting, harvesting, sowing, drying clothes, drawing water from wells and so on in a loose rhythmic pattern.

Warli paintings have now gained popularity across the nation and are sold as prints on sarees, tiles, cloth, and as wall paintings.

Warli Painting

Sawantwadi crafts

Sawantwadi, a quaint town located along the western coastline of Konkan boasts of scenic beauty and lacquer crafts. Motifs of leaves and flowers, and mythological figures are painted on the surface of different objects. This lacquer craft has been extended to creation of beautifully crafted lacquered furniture and light fittings.

It is sold across the country as Sawantwadi crafts and has drawn a lot of international attention.

Sawantwadi craft


Bidriware crafts, native to the city of Aurangabad, are very famous as souvenirs, hookahs, and paan holders. They are made from a combination of zinc and copper. Pure silver is known to be embossed, inlaid or overlaid on various materials, preferably metal to look like an intricate mosaic. These craft works are now available in various sizes and shapes across the country.


2. Cloth and Sarees

Mashru & Himru

The district of Aurangabad is known not only for Ajanta & Ellora, and the Daulatabad fort, but also for the famous fabrics of Mashru and Himru. These fabrics are made of cotton and silk and have a satin-like appearance. Himru shawls are multi-coloured and are prepared by the artisans from Benaras who set up the Himru industry in Aurangabad, years ago. These fabrics are worth every penny they cost.


Paithani sarees

Paithan, the religious town is very well known for its Paithani saree weaving industry. This exquisite piece of six and nine yards is made of pure silk and its beautiful brocaded embroidery of zari is obtained from threads drawn from pure gold. An entire saree could take approximately 6 months to 1.5 years to weave. The price range is from a few thousand to a few lakh Indian rupees. For Maharashtrian women, a paithani is a must-have piece of fabric in their trousseau.

Paithani sari 

Narayan Peth

The Narayan Peth saree of Solapur is another popular traditional sarees from the state of Maharashtra. It is woven in pure silk with a contrasting zari border. The saree derives its uniqueness from the beautiful rudraksha motifs present on it. Although it is not as expensive as the Paithani, it cost up to several thousands of Indian rupees.

Narayan Peth sari.

3. Jewellery & Accessories

Kolhapuri Jewellery

The district of Kolhapur is renowned for its unique jewellery seeped in culture and royalty. The most loved among these adornments is the Kolhapuri saaj, a necklace like no other. Other popular pieces of jewellery from the land of Kolhapur are the Har, Mohanmal, Bormal, Chaplahaar, Pohehaar and Putlihaar.

Kolhapuri saaj.

Kolhapuri chappals

These beautiful leatherworks footwear called Kolhapuri chappals are native to royal district of Kolhapur. The chappals offer a unique style and are extremely comfortable. Such is the popularity of the Kolhapuri chappals that they are exported the world over.

Kolhapuri chappal.

4. Music of Maharashtra

The art forms of dance and music are intricately woven in the fabric of the Maharashtrian culture and tradition. Did you know that the musical instrument Sitar is made in the city of Miraj near Sangli district?

The city of Miraj has been honoured with the title of ‘town of music’ for this significant contribution to classical music. There are three major forms of music at the core of the musical history of the state such as folk music, natya sangeet, and the poetry of the saints. Let us take a deeper look at these forms of music. 

Folk Music

Ordinary village folk have significantly contributed to folk music in Maharashtra.

Povadas are ballads which describe the life, times, and significant events in the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Povadas are enjoyed by all villagers given their informational and inspirational content.

Take a look at one of the most popular Povadas from a recent commercially successful and critically acclaimed Marathi movie.

Owi, a typical folk song, made up of couplets describing women’s maternal and marital homes, is sung by village womenfolk while performing routine chores throughout the day. Married women, called suvasinis sing songs of marital bliss and marital responsibilities during haladi & ghana bharane ceremonies (ceremonies where women apply home-ground turmeric paste on the soon-to-be-wedded bride and bridegroom).

The most exciting form of music is Bhaleri, which is sung by farmers while working in their fields. Bhaleri has diverse verses and words during different seasons like sowing, harvesting, and reaping.

Palane is a song that Maharashtrian women sing as a lullaby to put their children and toddlers off to sleep.

Women also sing Artya during epidemics, to appease gods and goddesses to cure those suffering from deadly diseases.

Several other forms of simple devotional music like bhajans, bharud, gondhal, kirtans, lalita, abhanga, and tumbadi which were composed to praise Hindu Gods and regional deities have contributed immensely to the rich musical canvas of Maharashtra.

Natya Sangeet

Marathi Natya Sangeet is a semi-classical style of music derived from Hindustani classical music. It is performed on stage during plays/dramas. The legendary dramatist Vishnudas Bhave was a pioneer of Marathi theatre. Annasaheb Kirloskar, known as the father of modern Marathi theatre was the stalwart who introduced music into theatre thereby starting the tradition of Natya Sangeet. Since then Marathi Natya Sangeet has been through several transformations and has evolved as the most engaging mediums for music and theatre lovers to date.

Natya Sangeet.

5. Poetry of the saints

The poets and saints of Maharashtra are highly revered due to their preaching through the combination of bhakti (devotion) and gyana (knowledge). Some of the most noted poet-saints are Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram, Namdev, Chokha, Soyarabai, Muktabai, and Savanta. They came from diverse social backgrounds.

Dnyandev, better known as Dnyaneshwar wrote the Dnyaneshwari which is a monumental verse commentary on the holy Bhagavad Geeta.

Namdev, a reformed criminal, rose to popularity when he started composing devotional songs in Marathi and Hindi. It is interesting to note that some of the songs written by Namdev in Hindi are also included in the Adi Granth.  

Women saints like Muktabai, the sister of Dnyandev, also made notable contributions to Marathi poetry and devotional preaching. She composed 41 abhangas in her lifetime in devotion toward Vithoba.

Several other saints who carried on the good work initiated by Dnyaneshwar are Tukaram, Bahinabai, Eknath, and Rameshwar. Notable among these are the hauntingly painful, lyrical, and melodious compositions by Bahinabai, a warkari poet-saint which mirror her dilemma of duty toward her husband and her devotion to Vithoba.

Samartha Ramdas Swami is one of the most powerful saints in Maharashtra who is known to have inspired Shivaji Maharaj in his struggle for Swaraj. His compositions Manache Shlok and Dasbodh are revered by generations to date.

In essence, poetry, devotion, and positive intent of these saints was bound in the rustic music of those times. Several musicians now find creative inspiration in those simple lyrical notes to compose contemporary music for the masses.

6. Dances of Maharashtra

Like music, dance too is ingrained in the Maharashtrian psyche. Vibrant folk and traditional dances make up a beautiful mosaic of Marathi culture. Let us take a look at some of the popular dance forms.


Lavani, the most popular dance form of Maharashtra derives its name from Lavanya, which is translated as beauty. It is performed by beautiful women wearing nine yards sarees and dancing to the beats of a drum-like instrument called dholak. The movements are gyrating and spiral and involve intricate leg and hip movements.

The lavani is a traditional dance form which earlier depicted the life of the ordinary people, society, overall. It later went on to be performed for the tired soldiers of the Maratha battles and further on came to be misused for the entertainment of influential people. The disrepute gained in this process maligned the dance form for a few years but it was eventually revived by several great poets and reformers and its lost glory was thereby reinstated.

Today, lavani is performed in the baithi (sitting position) form also in addition to the traditional standing position. To see Video of Top 8 Lavani songs.

Lavani dance.


Tamasha, the most popular form of folk theatre in Maharashtra owes its name to the Persians as Tamasha literally means entertainment or fun. The Mahar and Kothari communities in Maharashtra have contributed to the evolution of this dance form since the 16th century AD.

Love songs are known to play a vital role and form the crux of this dance form. It is performed to the beats of several instruments like the dholak, cymbals, tuntuni, halgi, kade, ghunghroos, lejim, and harmonium. The musical aspect of the tamasha is believed to be inspired by Bhana and Prahsana, two forms of Sanskrit drama.


Koli dance

Koli dance is performed by the fishermen community of Maharashtra. It showcases the vivacity of the community and is therefore termed as a ‘dance of joy’. 

Both men and women, either standing together in a single row or by forming pairs perform dance movements, depicting activities performed during fishing such as rowing boats, casting nets, symbolically forming waves, swaying oars in forward and backward motions, and so on.

Vibrant garments and jewellery distinctive of the fisher-folk community, enhance their dance! The koli dance is specifically performed during the Narali Purnima festival to appease the sea god to calm the seas in order for the fishermen to resume fishing and earn their yearly monetary compensation.

Koli dance


It is dance form that is popularised by the ‘Varkaris’, a devotional sect, and chronicles the playful attitude of Lord Krishna. An mridangam player and a vocalist provide the necessary beat and musical background to the dance that is performed by both men and women together. Dindi is typically performed on the Ekadashi day of the holy month of Kartik.


Dhangari Gaja

Dhangari gaja, as the name suggests is a peculiar dance performed by the Dhangar (shepherd) community of the district of Solapur. Since the shepherds earn their living by grazing goats and sheep, they are truly inspired by nature that surrounds them while grazing the cattle.

Songs are dedicated to nature, in the form of couplets – the Ovis. Their songs also refer to the stories surrounding the birth and life of their god ‘Biroba’. Dhangari gaja is performed by a group of men dressed in traditional Marathi attire of angarkha, dhoti, pheta, and colourful handkerchiefs. There are dholak players who are surrounded by these dancers. 


This is another regional dance form, little is known of it. It is performed in obeisance to Lord Krishna and represents the joyous and playful mood of the God. The most unique feature of this dance form is the presence of a pot which symbolises fertility. The dance revolves around this pot and is performed by men and women together.

A diverse geographical landscape, historically important events, social diversity of the population of Maharashtra, and a healthy interaction with neighbouring states among other reasons have all contributed to the preservation of its original arts and crafts, and incorporation of several new and improved arts and crafts into its fold.  Every different region and city has its significance and has contributed vastly to the evolution and progress of the state as a financial and cultural capital of the country.

Also read

1. About Warli Art

2. Paithani Saris pictures at Paithan

3. Marathi Natya Sangeet

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