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Phad Paintings



Introduction

Originated in Rajasthan the Phad paintings are traditionally scrolled paintings on a long cloth or canvas called ‘Phad’. The Phad painting designs are based on folk deities of the region, predominantly, Pabuji and Devnarayan. Interestingly, the Phad paintings are not mere strokes of the brush but invoke a deep sense of spiritual worship for their deities, and hence in many ways are also considered as sacred as temples.




Details

History

More than 700 years old, Phad paintings of Rajasthan were a combination of the song and performance of the religious narratives. A priest and his wife called Bhopa and Bhopi sanction the making of the Phad painting which they would carry with them from place to place and explain through their performance of song and narrative. Using their musical instrument called ravanhatta, they traveled and used the Phad paintings as visual mediums to illustrate the stories from Hanuman Chalisa, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, and other epics and mythological stories. The painters exclusively belonged to the Joshi family in the district of Bhilwara, Rajasthan. However, as recently as in 1960 Shree Lal Joshi decided to open the doors of learning this art form and established Joshi Kala Kunj in Rajasthan.

Phad Painting HistoryProcess and Style: The handwoven cloth is mostly preferred for the paintings. A mixture of wheat or rice flour with water is boiled till it thickens and is then applied with gum on the cloth. The cloth is then stretched and dried in the sun after which it is rubbed with a stone object to smoothen its surface. The colors and pigments are made from natural sources and grind for usage. Before beginning the painting, the artist offers prayers and the ritual involves beginning the painting on an auspicious day. Once the sketch is ready it is filled with colors, some of which depict specific instances, such as, orange is used for the limbs and torso, yellow for clothing and ornaments and so on. The black outline also called Shyahi Kadhana gives the Phad Paintings its final perfect look. Interestingly, the eyes of the deities are painted in the end. The drawing of the eyes signifies their opening, hence implying that the deity is awakened. Once the deity is awakened, the painting takes the form of a sacred religious ornament and becomes a traveling temple.

Present Times

The process and characters of the original painting art have changed in recent years. Today there has been no involvement of the Bhopa and Bhopi that sanction the beginning of a painting. Today artists have started painting simple subjects such as marriage or hunting along with the religious and mythological narrations. Though very few Phad artists remain in India, the art is no longer a particular family affair. Chitrashala or the Joshi Kala Kunj under the guidance of Shree Lal Joshi and his sons has spread the awareness and heritage of Phad paintings to the world at large.




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