Etymology: The word ‘pichwai’ is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘pich’ meaning back and ‘wai’ meaning hanging.
Origin: The Pichwai Paintings are believed to have originated about 400 years ago.
Location: Pichwai painting school originated in the Aravali hills on the bank of Banas River at Nathdwara in Rajasthan.
Relevance: The demand for Pichwai paintings grew as these religious scrolls were bought increasingly by the pilgrims who would visit the temple in Nathdwara. Since the paintings portray joyous occasions, it induces positive thoughts and feelings in the observer.
Significance: The tradition of making Pichwai paintings is as old as the history of the main temple of Shrinathji.
As time passed, the art form evolved and reached its pinnacle at the Shrinathji temple in Nathdwara.
Culture and society: Many artists were employed by the temple administration and were tasked with making Pichwai for different seasons and ritual ceremonies on the order of the chief priest. The Pushtimarg community had a crucial role in making Pichwai paintings.
Religious significance: The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was fanatic in his intolerance of other religions. He ordered the destruction of all Hindu temples. To protect the holy idol of Lord Shrinathji, a priest carried it all the way from Govardhan to Mewar. When the cart carrying the idol approached Nathdwara (then Sihar), its wheels got stuck in the mud. Maharana Rajsingh of Mewar took it as a sign that the god wanted to reside there, and this led to the creation of the Shrinathji temple at Nathdwara.
Understanding the Art
Style: These paintings use an earth colour palette to depict imaginative figures with soft features. Floral motifs and the lotuses are the main attraction of Pichwais, after the depiction of Lord Shrinathji.
Central motifs: Apart from the themes of Shrinathji, motifs of lotuses and cows are depicted as well. Various Indian festivals such as Diwali, Holi, etc, are also painted in Pichwai art.