Art has always played an important role in the Indian society. Traditional artworks depict the daily life of people and become a good source of history. Some of the art forms are even used as a dedication to God. One of these is Pichwai art. This beautiful work of art is now a part many temples, art collections, and exhibitions.
It was mainly created as a backdrop in the temples dedicated to Krishna or Srinathji and is considered as an important offering to God along with food offerings, garments, jewelry, and more. It has a lot of religious significance. It is a reflection of beauty and rich history. These paintings are also used as souvenirs for devotees who want to take a picture of the God home. This is because photography is not allowed in most temples.
What is Pichwai?
Pichwai is a form of art that mainly finds its roots in the state of Rajasthan. These works of art are detailed and show a lot of skill of the painters due to its refined looks. The word “pich” means behind and “wai” means hanging. These artworks are used as backdrops and they are mainly seen hanging in the background of the temples. You may find them at Nathdwara temple in Rajasthan.
The earlier artworks were based on the description of events sung in kirtans as well as stories, which the head priests narrated to the artists.
How is a Pichwai painting done?
Such a painting may take anything from a couple of weeks to a few months to be made. The painter first makes a rough sketch on a starched cloth. Post that, he fills it with colors. While earlier, natural colors were used, they have now been replaced by cheaper and commercially available colors. Besides, some artists even used pure gold or pearls in the painting.
A Pichwai may also be printed using handblocks or woven using embroidery, dabka, or zardozi work. In this, the outlines are dark while the embroidery uses colorful threads. In some, the gold thread is used to highlight the design. When appliqué work is used, the background is made of red cotton and the stitches are in colors like black, yellow, cream, and green. Here, the outlines are made in white and the art is completed with Gota work done on velvet.
What does Pichwai showcase?
The main theme of the Pichwai is of Lord Srinathji and his exploits. The features of his idol are portrayed here which mainly include big eyes, heavy body, and a broad nose.
The theme, however, varies depending on seasons and occasions. Pichwais for the summer will have pink lotuses while the ones for the winter will have an intricate jamawar pattern. For the occasion of Anukooth, it shows Srinathji wearing silver clothes. During the occasion of Sharad Purnima, a bright, full moon is showcased in a night scene. Other than these, the occasions like Holi, Raas Leela, and more are also showcased.
Why is this art form going extinct?
This art is diminishing. There are a number of reasons why artists fear that this art form may go extinct. Some of them are:
- It takes a lot of time and effort to create such paintings, which discourages many young artists to take it up.
- The cost of a good Pichwai is generally over INR 50,000, which makes it out of reach for the common man.
- There is very less demand for such paintings.
- The makers of natural colors have not passed the knowhow to the next generation due to which the methods to make them have been lost in time.
- The new forms of art that have been created are easier to make and get sold very fast. Thus, they are more preferred over Pichwais.
What is being done to revive it?
To protect this art form from going extinct, a number of individuals and organizations are working with artists. Some notable revival ideas are:
- Gates of the Lord: The Tradition of Krishna Paintings
With Reliance Foundation, Founder and Chairperson Nita Ambani brought a number of Pichwais to Chicago in the United States of America. She showcased the art of Pushtimarg, a sect in India. The foundation held an exhibition from 13th September 2015 to 3rd January 2016 at Art Institute of Chicago. It was one of the first times that such artworks were displayed to the public at an international level.
To support Pichwai artists, some companies are using this art form for corporate gifting purposes. Some companies even hang them on the walls of their offices.
- Smaller Pichwai arts
The original artworks were huge as they were made mainly for being used as temple backdrops. Today, they are being scaled down by almost 60 percent. Art enthusiasts are making artists use smaller paper sizes. This makes it more affordable to young art collectors who want to own a Pichwai without spending a lot on it.
Pooja Singhal, a Delhi-based designer and art enthusiast, works with many artists to recreate the magic of Pichwai. She picks out authentic, old, and pieces that are unavailable in the market and makes the artists replicate them. This offers buyers a number of traditional as well as contemporary ones at an affordable price.
Pichwai is one of the most celebrated traditional art forms of the country. To preserve this part of the culture and give a new life to the art, more individuals and groups should come together and extend their support.