Pichwai- The temple Art
Nathdwara – the town famous for Shrinathji Temple and Pichwai paintings is scenic destination nestled in Aravalli Hills on the banks of River Banas. Paintings are work of art that documents social culture or movement. Pichwai is an artful creation specifically created in the love of god. Its name itself describes its placement; this Sanskrit compound word means pich – back and wais – hanging. The temple hanging in the backdrop of Lord Shrinathji has emerged as popular painting from Nathdwara School. Pichwai originated when Vallabhaichari sect first created illustration of festivals.
The thematic decoration of the temple area concurs with wall painting or curtain behind Shrinathji’s idol. It is inspired by festival scenes, seasons or events. Krishna is shown in different moods, postures and dresses. The characters are distinguished by sharp features- large eyes, big nose, weighty body and sheen fabric or odhani of women folks. Dark outlines are sketched and filled with soft natural or synthetic dyes. A lot of gold used put in astounding quality to the figures.
Lord Krishna as Shrinathji
Shrinathji is mountain lifting appearance of lord Krishna. As per legend when the Lord of Rains, Indra showered fierce rains and thunder on the people of Vrindavan as a matter of rage Lord Krishna appeared as Shrinathji and raised Goverdhan Mountain, under the elevation the inhabitants and cattle were saved. Since then people started worshipping Govardhan Mountain and Krishna as Shrinathji. In 1409 AD an image of lord Shrinathji was discovered by a cow and a temple was established. Later, being optimistic that Rajputs would take care of it aptly the temple was shifted to Nathdwara, Rajasthan. Along with the idol pichwai makers too migrated there.
Making of a legendary Pichwai
Earlier the art was done on walls but today they are created as hand painted, block printed, appliqué, woven or embroidered curtains. People are inclined towards the art and desire to include it in their temple room so artists are also creating small sized versions. There are very few artists of pichwai paintings living in Chitron ki gali hence it is indeed a rare collectible to treasure.
It is done on cloth. The base fabric used to be loose, rough and hand spun which is now machine made. The painter makes a sketch on starched cloth. Dark colored outlines are made and filled with lighter colours through thread or brushes. The brushes are made from the hair of horse, squirrel or goat. Yellow, black, cream and green colours are used on red background. White color is used as highlighter. These colours were extracted from vegetables and are now replaced by mineral dyes.
Pure gold or gold thread and gems embellishments are used to enhance the beauty of Pichwai.
Exclusivity at par
Affluent people offer Pichwais to Srinathji temple while common men adorn their shrine at home with small Pichwai. They are also hung on temple-chariots. The sacred cloth has luxury of being handmade and use of precious minerals. Nathdwara’s art of Pichwai has gained international acclaim and is exported. Its creative appeal fascinates foreigners as much as it tempts Indians.
Prehistoric art forms are the best ways to learn about opulence of ethnicity and legacy of a region. Heritage intricate devotional painting centres Lord Krishna against the famed counter art form from the same region- Phad where Pabuji is the main hero. A single painting takes somewhere around a week to months to complete. Even single colour gold needs 3-4 days to prepare. It is a combined effort of several skillful artists. It is amazing to find a Pichwai according to season. In summer Pichwai displays pink lotuses in pond and for Sharad Purnima a full moon on dark background is made in Pichwai.