India is the bearer of almost 50 folk art forms, among which each art form is unique in its own way. These art forms trace back their presence 3000 years ago. Of all these paintings the art form we picked for you today is Pichwai painting from the royal lands of Rajasthan which is 400 years old. Rooftop has a close connection with Rajasthani folk art and among them, Pichwai might be our favourite. 

Pichwai also called ‘Pichvai‘ originally, means ‘that hangs from the back’, arising from the Sanskrit language  ‘Pich‘ referring to back and ‘wais‘ translating to hanging. These paintings depict the popular Hindu mythology of Lord Krishna. Hindu temples hang these paintings. Shreenath Ji’s Temple in Nathdwara, Bihari Temple of Vrindavan, and Dwarikadhish Temple from Mathura hang Pichwai paintings mainly. Pichwai artworks are hung behind the idol of Lord Krishna in these temples. 

Importance of Pichwai

The aim of Pichwai besides providing artistic appeal is to portray ‘Krishna Leela’ or stories of Lord Krishna. All the temples have different Pichwai wall hangings portraying various stories. According to the Indian calendar and festivals, the Pichwais are changed. During the month of ‘Phagun’, the colourful festival of Holi is celebrated, and the Pichwais in the temples depict the stories of Radha and Krishna celebrating the festival of colours on the streets of Vrindavan. 

The central theme of the Pichwai painting is Shrinath Ji, who is Lord Krishna’s 7-year-old form who is worshipped. The painting illustrates the rituals and prayers offered on a daily basis. Not just this, but the Pichwais also depict deities such as Dwarikadhish, Yamuna Ji, and Goswamis.

Image credits: Saffron Art

Nathdwara and Pichwai

A small town located to the south of Rajasthan, on the banks of the Banas River, Nathdwara is the lead exporter of Pichwai all over India. The demand for these masterpieces is among foreign tourists as well. Pichwai paintings are a group initiative and interactive too. The artists live in local colonies named ‘Chitron ki Gali’ which translates to the street of paintings, and ‘Chitrakaron ki Gali’ which means a colony of painters. 

Artists are making efforts to preserve this sacred art form and striving to take it to an international level while attempting to bring the world a tad bit closer to Indian cultural art, Rooftop is contributing greatly. One such master artist is Shri Raja Ram Sharma Ji with who we have joined hands and taken Pichwai to a global level. We conduct virtual workshops across the world teaching and educating about Indian Folk Art. We offer maestro courses that provide in-depth learning experiences of Indian Folk art.

History of Pichwai Painting

Nathdwara Temple has a legendary story behind it, originating from Mathura. It stems from the year 1672 and is about Lord Krishna’s avatar – Shreenath Ji. As the lore dictates, the wheel of the bullock cart gets stuck in the mud and it was believed to be the divine wish of the Lord to build the Nathdwara temple right there. This came to be the Heritage Temple of Nathdwara. To decorate the inside of this shrine, Pichwai came to life. They also narrate the widely-known story of Govardhan Parbat. Lord Krishna lifted the ‘Prabhat’ or mountain on his little finger and saved the entire town from drowning in the floods. As a result, another genre of Pichwai artwork known as ‘Annakut Pichwai’ came to light. It shows Shreenathji with his left hand raised. This story is of great cultural importance to the world of Pichwai.

Image credits: Sotheby’s

Local folklore says that the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb attacked the city of Mathura to get his hands on Lord Shreenath Ji’s idol. This idol had a diamond-studded chin and was adorned with heavenly jewellery. There is no room for error in these paintings as the idol is portrayed with intricate detailing. Each piece of jewellery is curated with utmost care.

Pichwai is hands down one of the toughest and most mesmerising art forms in India. The artists spend hours and days on a single painting. The artists sit on the floor holding the same posture creating admirable pieces. 

Rooftop is taking a close look at this art and enlightening the world about what a treasure we possess. Not just this all Indian art deserves global recognition which we are working towards. 

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