Born into tradition, Embracing Change
Phad master artist, Kalyan Joshi was born in 1969 into the Joshi family from Bhilwara, Rajasthan. The Joshi family had the distinction of being the one family that knew how to make Phad paintings; It was a legacy they have carried forward since the 13th century. Kalyan Joshi recognized the need to modernize the art form to protect it from quietly fading into the past. His individuality and conviction to follow his instinct has revived a great interest in the rest of the art form.
Phad painting is a type of scroll painting. It was painted on a long cotton cloth that was washed and beaten to make it soft. The bright natural colours used in these paintings are made from crushing stone and mixing it with water. The artist also used a plant-based gum known as desi gond to help the colours stick to the cloth and remain bright.
The word ‘Phad’ means to fold. The long cloth portrays the stories of the folk deities of Rajasthan, Pabuji and Devnarayan. Traditionally, local bards known as Bhopa and Bhopi would travel with these scrolls and narrate the Hindu epics. The advent of technology brought about a decline in this tradition.
Opening the Doors
In the past, the practice of painting Phad was kept a secret by the Joshi families. They followed a straightforward concept that this art could only be taught to those entering or staying in the family. This meant that the daughters in the Joshi family were deprived of this knowledge because they would leave their father’s home after marriage. The daughters-in-law, however, were taught this art since they would stay in the family.
Kalyan Joshi’s father, Shree Lal Joshi, had the foresight and recognized the dire prospects of not allowing outsiders to learn the art. He took the bold step of opening the door to outsiders and went on to open a school, Joshi Kala Kendra, for everyone to learn this style. Presently, Kalyan Joshi has taken the mantle from his father; he now teaches and runs the school. The school is called Chitrashala. Here he has taught and shared his art generously with over 3000 students.
Kalyan Joshi made certain adjustments that have gone a long way in preserving this art form. He started making Phad paintings on a smaller surface. This contributed to the art being more accessible at least to the newer enthusiasts and students.
Moreover, Kalyan Joshi has not restricted himself to the traditional themes of Phad paintings and has explored stories that have never been expressed in Phad. In his TEDx Bhilwara talk, he shared his thought process behind his reason for experimentation. He said, “If we have to tell stories then why must it be only the stories of Pabuji and Devnarayan.”
This thought was an impetus to explore other stories such as the Ramayan, Mahabharat, and Geet Govind, to name a few. Since this work was well received, he went on and painted stories from the Panchatantra.
He didn’t stop there. He worked on contemporary motifs such as government schemes, social issues like women’s empowerment and even Covid-19.
These steps have contributed significantly to making this art form relatable.
Kalyan Joshi has won several major awards for his work, such as:
National Award, 2010
Gauri Shankar Mehta, Maru Parampar, 2008
National Merit Award, 2006
Kalyan Joshi’s Phad paintings have been featured across various galleries and collections in India such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Baroda to name a few. He has also showcased his works internationally.
We are proud to share that Rooftop has had the honour of collaborating with Kalyan Joshi for select workshops on Phad paintings. He has also been supportive of our efforts to revive and create awareness of traditional Indian arts. He graced our innovative event, Phad se Padh in Delhi.
We encourage you to take this opportunity to learn Phad painting from a master of the art form. Kalyan Joshi is a superlative artist that has successfully balanced tradition with innovation and his workshops promise to be a rewarding experience. Register for our Phad painting course with Kalyan Joshi on the Rooftop app.
We offer a wide range of courses on traditional Indian art forms taught by leading artists. To know more about our workshops, visit rooftopapp.com.