Pichwai Painting of Rajasthan
The seasonal rhythms of the Pichwai painting depict the variety of this textile according to season and festivals. These devotional pieces of textiles originate 400 years ago in a small town called Nathdwara, near Udaipur in Rajasthan, India. The word Pichwai means a cloth backdrop, used as a piece of ‘Shringar’, adornments in the Shrinathji temple.
Imagine this, Lord Krishna frolics in the foliage while being in the presence of his beloved gopi, Radha, and is bestowed with love and admiration or he plays the flute by the banks of the Yamuna river filled with birds and pink lotus blossoms.
These are a few of the divine depictions of Shrinathji that one can notice in the intricacies of Pichwai painting.
Pichwai painting is a beautiful yarn of the rich aesthetical fabric of culture and traditions. It belongs to the Hindu sect, ‘Pushtimarg’. When Shrinathji, a special ‘svarup’ of Lord Krishna was installed, the artisans continued in the hopes and aspirations to decorate the temple. This folk art of Nathdwara developed further.
Significance of Seasons in Pichwai Painting
Apart from the aesthetical value, the Pichwais have several other significance, one of them being – The seasons
An incident described in the elaborative book – Gates of the Lord, The Tradition of Krishna Painting, mentions how Raja Man Singh of Amber was left disappointed with the inappropriate use of heavy brocade Pichwai during the summer season in Gaudiya temple in Vrindavan. Later, during the pilgrimage to the Shrinathji temple in Govardhan, he was pleased to observe the ‘Shringar’ (adornments) were thoughtfully selected as per the season. This implies the importance of the selection of Pichwai as per the seasonal changes and marks its significance.
The Shrinathji Pichwai paintings illustrate the elements of nature, tales of Shrinathji, and festivals of Nathdwara. This suggested their usage as per seasonal rhythms. The colours aligned with the theory of weather change and motifs hinted at the same.
So here’s a list of Pichwai paintings that are suited as shringar, for the particular season.
The Summer Season Pichwai Painting
The Lotus Pichwai Painting
As often described in different pieces of literature, the lotus is considered to be Lord Krishna’s favourite flower; hence, this particular motif and Pichwai paintings go hand in hand. Not known by many, these motifs help devotees visualize lotus ponds and the banks of the Yamuna River, where a young Krishna would spend his time rollicking with the gopis. These were used frequently during the summer months to create a cool atmosphere in the sanctum of Shrinathji. The refreshing use of blue for water ponds or rivers, and pink for blossoms gave away a soothing feel. You can also see the deity dressed in light-coloured cloth adhering to the season. Interestingly, the artisans first mastered the block-printed lotus Pichwais during the eighteenth century and later transitioned to hand-painted lotus Pichwais.
Jal Vihar Pichwai
The desert town of Nathdwara experiences scorching heat in the months of May, June and July. To provide a calming effect in the temple sanctum, the light-coloured Pichwai is used to place it behind Shrinathji’s images. During the summer, devotees particularly use the Jal Vihar paintings that depict Lord Krishna engaging in water sports. It illustrates how he amuses himself near the poolside along with his beloved Radha and other gopis. The exceptional use of lace in Pichwais started in the second half of the nineteenth century. The lace detailing served the purpose of making the Pichwais look summery.
The Monsoon Pichwai Painting
The rainy season and the spring of peacocks needless to say a breathtaking sight. During the monsoon season, in the months of July and October, Pichwais like these were on display. It bears its name from the little village near Radha’s home in Vraj. This detailed artwork represents Morpriya’s love for peacocks. The story goes that, Lord Krishna dances for his beloved, mimicking the peacocks while other gods cherish the sight and levitate in the evening sky. The usage of colours denotes the monsoon season. Blue-black clouds, darker green groves and vibrant peacocks make a magnificent backdrop for Shrinathji’s temple.
The Winter Season Pichwai
Just like the summer, winters too, are extremes in Rajasthan and the “Mangala darshan” ( the first viewing of the day) takes place before sunrise. During this season, the deities are richly bejewelled and adorn quilted garments. generally, heavy brocade Pichwais in darker colours are offered. It is observed that heavy brocade Pichwais, generally in darker colours are offered. It is a belief by the native of Nathdwara that the thick and weighty material Pichwai and garment protects the deity from cold.
The Spring Season Pichwai Painting
Vasant Panchami marks the arrival of the spring season, a time when plants and flowers bloom. Shrinathji’s idol is showered flowers and smeared with sandalwood and gulal(coloured powder). As the season symbolizes a burst of colours and growth of life, the Pichwais also depict the same every day. Behind the idol is a display of plain white cloth, where the priests create Pichwai designs on it with red gulal.
These intricate tapestries of Nathdwara were not only used as a means to decorate the sanctum but also, to adorn the walls to create a theatrical drama, enhance the mood of devotees and evoke an emotional atmosphere. Each motif had a tale to tell and so did the alchemy of colours.
Pichwai Painting is one of the precious gems of Indian art culture and is still in practice, proudly in the northwestern part of the country.
Citation: B.N.Gpswamy’s, In Adoration of Krishna, Pichhwais of Shrinathji. Tapi Collection
Madhuvanti Ghose’s Gates of the Lord; The Tradition of Krishna Paintings