The rolling canvases of India – A symphony of truck art design and culture

The anticipation was buzzing as our car zoomed through Punjab. There I was, lost in Punjabi beats, daydreaming of a truck road trip splashed with colorful truck art design, channeling my inner Alia Bhatt in ‘Highway’. But as luck would have it, our car had a drama moment, stalling theatrically mid-journey.

We called a mechanic, and, in a twist worthy of Bollywood, she sent a vibrant truck to tow our drama-queen car. I tried my best Alia impression, hair flying in the wind. But a gust and a reality check later, I was back inside, laughing at the cheeky truck art design line: “Fast and Furious but no Girlfriend”. Riding atop this canvas-on-wheels, I was surrounded by the wit, colors, and tales that define India’s unique truck art design.

Every honk, every bounce made me appreciate this mobile masterpiece. These trucks, they’re not just vehicles; they’re stories painted in vibrant hues. After my Bollywood-inspired escapade, I found myself diving deep into the history of truck art design. Hold on tight, it’s quite a ride!

Trucks, tints, and tales –  A journey into India’s rolling art galleries

Approximately 8.5 million trucks grace the roads of India, each carrying tales painted in vibrant hues. The roots of this moving folk art stretch back to South Asia in the 1940s. Back in the day, the artworks were pretty low-key, primarily showcasing religious symbols. They were impactful, yet they lacked the bold flair evident today. Fast-forward to the 60s, and the trucks were suddenly all dolled up! Pop art, psychedelic images, and portraits of cultural bigwigs turned these vehicles into literal ‘pop’ stars on wheels.

Credit: Hyperallergic

The 1982 Asian Games played an unexpected muse. Post the event, trucks were flaunting designs of the mascot – the elephant, like it was the latest fashion trend. This art form did more than merely beautify the roads. It ascended in India’s cultural panorama, swiftly securing a position akin to ‘heritage’. On a related note, our neighbors in Pakistan were also making strides. They took this art, amped up the volume, and painted their trucks in even brighter, bolder palettes.

Starting their life as war machines during World War II, these trucks soon became the lifelines of post-Independence India. Today, they’re not just vehicles. They’re moving stories, embodying India’s rich tapestry of culture, heritage, and history. How’s that for a ride down memory lane?

Homes on wheels –  When trucks turn wives and abodes!

Amid the hum of engines and the hustle of repair works, our tow truck deposited our car at the workshop. To my surprise, it wasn’t just a garage; it was more like a bustling parking lot for these colossal, art-adorned vehicles. Each truck boasted flamboyant designs and cheeky taglines. My mind was racing with a whirlwind of thoughts. Is there a competition among drivers for the snazziest truck?’ and ‘I wonder how many Bollywood-inspired taglines are there?’

Caught up in my excitement, I approached a driver who was leaning against his truck, looking every bit the proud owner. “Mind showing me around?” I asked, pointing at his truck. With a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, he spread his arms out theatrically and said, “Welcome to my home tour! That’s how you young folks introduce stuff on YouTube, right?” 

Home tour?” I echoed, somewhat perplexed.

Nodding, he gestured for me to hop inside, but as I enthusiastically jumped in, he exclaimed, “Oi! Slow down, you’re stepping on my wife!” I halted, completely flabbergasted, “From home to wife? What next? He laughed, the sound echoing in the truck’s cabin. “See, we spend ages on these roads, away from our real homes. So many of us sleep right here in our trucks. This vehicle? It’s not just a means to transport goods. It’s our makeshift home, our companion.

Sometimes, in jest, we even call them our wives because, in our long absences, they become our closest partners. The place we dream of our families in, the place we pray, and yes, the place we decorate and pour all our love into. It was clear; for him and many others, these trucks weren’t just vehicles. They were rolling, roaring homes, echoing with stories of life on the highway.

Credit: Telegraph India

Expressions on the move – The emotional palette of Indian truck art

After my impromptu “truck-home” tour, I found myself seeing the highway as a moving truck art design. If you ever played “Spot the Dog” as a kid, think of this as its artsy, emotion-packed counterpart – “Decipher the Truck Art”!

Ever glanced at a truck and thought, “Why’s there a cow nuzzling its calf on the side?” Well, it’s not just a random bovine appreciation moment. That cow-calf duo? It’s the trucker’s way of saying, “Oh, how I miss mom’s homemade curry and those warm hugs!” Just like that, an everyday scene takes on layers of homesick nostalgia.


And that eagle wings spread wide against a vibrant backdrop? Nope, it’s not just there because eagles are cool (though they definitely are!). It’s the driver’s spirit animal, telling the world, “I might be miles away from home, but I’ll soar back when duty calls. These paintings aren’t just for show or to win “India’s Next Top Truck Model”. They’re the soulful scribbles of a diary, on wheels! Expressing love, longing, and a fair bit of “I rule the road” swagger. Our conversation continued. Then suddenly, I found myself pointing at an exceptionally intricate design and casually remarked, Who is the Picasso behind this?

The driver, Ranjit, just chuckled and puffed up his chest a bit, Oh, that’s all me!

That revelation threw me for a loop. These folks aren’t just the kings of the highway; they’re artists in disguise!

Mastering the craft – The life and process of a truck artist

With three decades under his belt, Ranjit explained how each truck became his canvas. The shimmering palette by his side isn’t just an accessory; it’s a toolkit to transform these metal beasts into vibrant narratives. Every swirl, twirl, and flourish is guided by the rhythm of old Bollywood songs, connecting the artwork to an era gone by. This art, as I soon realized, was more than aesthetics. It was about understanding the truck, its stories, and the very essence of our shared Indian culture. Each truck, thus, wasn’t merely transporting goods but parading tales of dreams, aspirations, and India’s rich truck art design cultural tapestry.

Preserving a moving legacy –  Exploring India’s truck art

Having journeyed through the intricate world of truck artists, understanding their process, passion, and the deep cultural significance behind every brushstroke, we now stand at a juncture where we can truly appreciate the final masterpieces. Each artwork is a silent storyteller, narrating tales of the artist’s dedication, the trucker’s dreams, and the shared cultural heritage of India. Certain regions, such as Punjab and Rajasthan, are renowned for their vibrant and intricate truck art traditions. All you have to do is book a Savaari cab from Amritsar and embark on this Truck art design all by yourself.

Rolling laughter: Wit and wisdom on Indian truck bumpers

We are now delving into the humorous side of truck art in India, where the roadways become a canvas for playful expressions. These witty phrases and lines adorning trucks offer a light-hearted glimpse into the world of truckers’ humor. So, let’s take a fun-filled ride through the amusing words and phrases that bring a smile to India’s highways


Samay se pehle bhagya se zyada kabhi nahi milta” is a common truck slogan in India and it signifies that we never receive anything ahead of schedule and that nothing will ever be more than what our luck would allow. It also covers the standard trucking etiquette in India, such as the 40 kph speed limit, using a dipstick at night, waiting for the side, all India permit, horn please, etc.


This quirky Indian truck slogan is a charmer. Translated, “Has mat pagli pyaar ho jaaega” cheekily says, “Don’t flash that smile, darling, or I might just fall head over heels for you!


The cryptic blue text on the truck reads, “Madam, it’s not my choice; I must drive 1081, it’s my obligation.” In this case, “1081” refers to the truck’s registration number.


On this truck, you’ll find a thought-provoking message: “Vishwaas vaham hai, sachchaai jooth hai,” which translates to “Trust is an illusion, truth is deceptive.”


“Risk anything but trusting your heart to girls” is one of the typical phrases you’ll find on Indian trucks, alongside other common messages like “Blow horn,” “Use dipper at night,” and “OK.”


Iraq ka pani, aur kitna piyegi raani ?” – Dear vehicle, how much more fuel will you consume, resembling the thirst for Iraq’s water?

Fueling a revival – India’s quest to save truck art heritage on wheels

In a whirlwind journey down memory lane, Farid Bawa decided it was high time to put the brakes on the fading art of truck painting. Enter India’s first-ever mobile truck art gallery! Recalling his own reminiscences of watching artisans breathe life into trucks at his grandfather’s business, Bawa felt an urge to fuel this initiative. In today’s era of pre-painted trucks and generic stickers, traditional truck artists seemed to be on the road to oblivion. Not on Bawa’s watch!

Instead of letting these artists fade away, he handed them cold rolled metal sheets, effectively turning them into colorful canvases. Consequently, the world got to marvel at these masterpieces online. Yet, why stop there? Following this, a truck adorned with the very best of these artworks took a joyride across Maharashtra’s cities. From eagles symbolizing transportation to the iconic ‘Horn OK Please’ nudge, every inch of this mobile gallery told tales of India’s vast cultural tapestry.

All India Permit

Then there’s the ‘All India Permit’ (AIP) project, Bawa’s brainchild from 2018. It was more than just a platform showcasing truck art; it also served as an enlightening space, educating netizens about the historical and cultural depths of this art form. The cherry on top? A significant chunk from the art sales directly boosted the artists’ wallets, especially in trying times. But Bawa’s got some mixed feelings about the road ahead. The pull of comfy office jobs and financial doubts might steer the younger generation away. The likes of artists Ahmad and Dongre may not want their kin to continue in their brushstrokes, but they’re adamant: truck art won’t just fade away into the sunset. As Raj Dongre eloquently quips, without it, the Indian highways would lose their magic. For anyone keen to experience this mesmerizing journey, there’s the Savaari app offering a vibrant ride through India’s adorned highways.

Credit: Jodi Logik
Credit:  Hyperallergic
Credit: The Better India

Useful travel information

Tank art, truck art and ‘Jugaad’ are great entrepreneurial qualities of Punjabis : Bhairavi Jani

Last Updated on December 14, 2023 by Arathy Subhash Marath

A quick summary
The rolling canvases of India: A symphony of truck art design and culture
Article Name
The rolling canvases of India: A symphony of truck art design and culture
India's trucks are more than mere vehicles; they're a celebration of culture and creativity on wheels. Dive into this blog to discover the stories and significance behind every stroke of the country's iconic truck art design.
Savaari Car Rentals

About the author

Arathy's zest for travel ignited during her upbringing in a culturally rich environment. Growing up amidst the vibrant tapestry of Kerala, she developed an ardent fascination for exploring diverse landscapes and unraveling hidden gems. With a background in journalism, Arathy blends her storytelling prowess with a keen eye for detail, bringing to life the essence of every place she visits with words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.