India is the bearer of almost 50 folk arts, among which each art form is different in its way. These art forms trace back their presence to 3000 years ago. Of all these paintings the art form we picked for you today is the 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’, extracted from the Sanskrit language  “Pich” referring to back and “wais” referring to hanging. These paintings depict the large Hindu beliefs relating to Lord Krishna. Hindu temples hang these paintings normally. Shreenath Ji’s Temple in Nathdwara, Bihari Temple in Vrindavan and Dwarikadhish Temple in Mathura hang Pichwai largely. The Pichwai is hung behind the idol of Lord Krishna in these temples. 

Importance of Pichwai

The aim of Pichwai besides providing artistic appeal is to portray tales of Lord Krishna. All temples have different backgrounds portraying various stories. According to Indian calander and festivals the Pichwais are changed. During phagun month, the renowned festival of Holi is celebrated and at the Pichwai used in temples depict the stories of Radha and Krishna celebrating the festival of colours on the streets of Vrindavan. 

The fundamental theme of the Pichwai painting isShrinath Ji who is Lord Krishna’s 7-year-old form worshipped, the painting depicts the rituals and worship offered on daily basis. Not only this Pichwai also depict Dwarikadhish, Yamuna Ji, and Goswamis.

Image credits: Fine Art America (M); Alamy (R)

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 visitors as well. Pichwai painting is a group and interactive painting. The artist of these paintings live in one such colony named Chitron ki Gali which translates to the street of paintings and another street named 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 and in this attempt of bringing 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. From Mathura, in the year 1672, Lord Krishna’s avatar – Shreenath Ji. The wheel of the bullock cart got stuck in the mud and was believed to be the divine wish of the Lord to build the temple right there. Thus came to be the Heritage Temple of Nathdwara. To decorate the inside of the shrine, Pichwai came to life. They also narrate the widely known story of Govardhan Parbat. Lord Krishna lifted the Prabhat on his little finger and saved the entire town from drowning in the floods. As a result, a genre of Pichwai artwork known as Annakut Pichwai shows Shreenathji with his left hand raised. This story is of central importance in the world of Pichwai.

The painting comprises delicate work. Another story says that Aurangzeb attacked Mathura to get his hands on Shreenath Ji’s idol. This idol had a diamond-studded chin and wore heavenly jewellery. There is no room for error in the painting as the idol is portrayed with elaborate detailing. Each piece of jewellery is curated with utmost care.

Pichwai is hands down one of the toughest and most mesmerising art forms of India. The artist spends hours and days on a single painting. Each artist sits on the floor holding the same posture and curating 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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