India has a rich heritage of Folk Art and Craft. One such art is the captivating–Pichwai Painting which originated over 400 years ago in the town of Nathdwara near Udaipur in Rajasthan, India. ‘Pichwai’ literally defines its meaning, with ‘pichh’ meaning back and ‘wai’ meaning textile hanging. Originally, pichwai paintings were used to decorate the temple of Shrinathji (Shrinathji ki Haveli) in Nathdwara, hung behind the deity to celebrate different seasons, festivals and events in Lord Krishna’s life.
Intricate and visually stunning, Pichwai paintings, made on cloth depict tales from Lord Krishna’s life. Lord Krishna is depicted as Shrinathji in Pichwais. Other common subjects found in Pichwai paintings are Radha, gopis, cows and lotuses. Festivals and celebrations such as Sharad Purnima, Raas Leela, Annakoot or Govardhan Puja, Janmashtami, Gopashtami, Nand Mahotsav, Diwali and Holi are frequently depicted in Pichwais.
The Process of making a Pichwai Painting
The cloth that is used as the backdrop for Shrinathji in his shrine is painted to give the wholesome effect to the surroundings. A traditional Pichwai has 24 boxes around called Swaroops. Each of them has a Krishna, Gopis and various other elements. These forms have evolved over the years. The elaborate Shringar of Shrinathji is captivating. Despite having various figurines and elements in it, Pichwai is a sheer example of aesthetic beauty and balance.
The making of a traditional Pichwai takes a couple of weeks that can even stretch to months. Originally Pichwai was painted on the handspun starched cotton fabric. The artisans would then sketch the art on the starched cloth. After that decorative and beautiful images were created. The images were then ready to be painted with completely organic and natural colors, paints and even natural brushes. These colors were obtained from coal, indigo, gold, silver saffron, zinc, and other natural sources. The bright and intense colors like yellow, green, black, red dominate the Pichwai. The ornate part would get the pure Gold as color. The borders were enhanced with crystals and other decorative elements.Shreenathji’s image is given special features like a big nose, large eyes, and fat belly. The distinct features and expressions of the diety’s face radiate the pleasant and divine feelings.
Pichwai Now
The 17th-century painting style had lost its prominence but now again has become popular and very much in demand. Pichwais traditionally were big in size as they were hung behind the deity but as time passed by the size of the paintings started reducing. Also, the colors are no longer pure organic. However due to the unavailability of natural dyes, artists now use either synthetic or the mixture of synthetic and natural colors.
Also, paper is used as an alternative instead of cotton fabric and are now hung on walls of homes and other places and are no longer restricted to the temples.

Alkaa Khanna

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