History of Pichwai Paintings By IndianShelf

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Posted On: 02 February, 2022

For a person brought up in India, it’s not uncommon to have grown up listening to the glorious stories of Lord Krishna. The stories of Krishna, especially the tales of his childhood, make up a significant and beautiful part of Indian culture and history. From books to movies and different kinds of media, these tales are everywhere. However, not many know that there is an art form specialized particularly to depict these tales of Krishna. This is a pichwai painting. The central theme of pichwai paintings revolves around the stories of experiences of Lord Krishna, majorly from his early years. Although lesser known by its name, Pichwai paintings find their home in galleries and buildings around the world. Let us throw some light on what is Pichwai, how it was born, its modern-day picture and other interesting facts. Keep reading below.

1.  What is a Pichwai Painting?

Read its Intro & Definition

Pichwai is a Sanskrit word in which ‘pich’ stands for back and ‘wai’ stands for hanging. Pichwai paintings are referred to Mewar-style textile paintings that are found hanging on the walls of temples, houses, art galleries and museums, specifically nathdwara temple from where they were first originated.

2.  How were Pichwai Paintings born?

Read their History & Origin

  • Dating back to 400 Years: Although Pichwai is a 400-year old Indian art form, its origins date back even earlier. If you’re of Indian origin, you must have heard the tale of Govardhan at some or the other time in your life. It goes like this. Once upon a time, Lord Indra under his rage, expressed his anger on the people of Vrindavan in the form of thunder and rains which led to heavy floods in the city. In order to protect his beloved fellows, little kid Krishna, on one of his fingers, lifted the Govardhan mountain as a form of an umbrella.
  • Discovery of Nathdwara Temple: Around 1400 A.D., an idol of the mountain holder was discovered at a place near Udaipur, Rajasthan. Owing to its significance, the place became highly revered and hence to preserve the moment of history, a temple was constructed here by the Rajputs.
  • The Beginning of Pichwais: Next, during the 16th century, not soon after the construction of Nathdwara temple was completed, the local artists began the decorations of the temple. One such decoration came about to be Pichwais. Communities of artists started creating embroidered and painted illustrations of events from Lord Krishna’s life. The velvet cloths were intricately decorated with a hand in threads and embellishments of a royal kind and then hung on the walls of the temple. Soon enough, the lesser known art started attracting artists and art lovers from around the globe. And this is how Pichwais were discovered and found their home in hearts and galleries around the world.

You can read also:

- Vastu Guide for Paintings and Art in Your House

- Pichwai Traditional Wall Art for your Living Room Space

3.  Some More Characteristics of Pichwai Paintings

  • Main Character & Themes: As mentioned above, the main character of these paintings is Lord Krishna. However, the themes vary from Lord Krishna childhood tales, Radha Krishna paintings and various festivals celebrating Krishna, like Janmashtami, Govardhan Puja, Sharad Purnima, Holi, Annakut etc.

Due to their cultural and historical significance, Pichwais are used for a variety of purposes including decorations, home interiors, and even to illustrate the tales of Krishna to people who’re illiterate or differently abled.

  • Intricate Detailing: The communities of artists creating Pichwai paintings are specially related to Chitron Ki Gali (Street of paintings) and Chitrakaron ka mohallah (colony of painters). A group of artists gather under the guidance of a master or Guru artist. Along with top-of-the-line artists, the process of creating these paintings is quite unique. They aren’t created through regular easel-and-brush technique but rather very intricately stroke by stroke while sitting on the floor. Even the brushes are made of delicate hair of horse, goat, or squirrels. The result, Pichwais are full of intricate embroideries, state-of-the-art gem work and fine detailing.

On a cloth starched and dried, rough figurines are drawn. On top of a velvet and cotton background, the paintings are adorned with traditional style appliqués, zardozi work, gold thread stitches, pearls and gota work. Pink lotuses, peacocks, women, cows, village scenes and nature, are some of the most common subjects of a pichwai painting. Apparently, different timelines of Krishna’s life are depicted.

  • Colour Palettes: The colour palette for a Pichwai painting is prepared in such a way that it exudes a fabulously aesthetic touch. A combination of natural and acrylic colours is used including zinc, saffron, coal, noble metals and indigo.

4.  Pichwai Paintings Today

Along the valleys of Aravali hills, amidst the stalls of sizzling Kachoris and sweet rabris, you will find the bustling temple of Nathdwara near Udaipur, Rajasthan. Inside the temple, there are halls where you’ll find artists working delicately on the pichwai paintings. Near to it, you’ll find stalls of paintings to purchase from. Buy for your living space, keep it as a souvenir or simply take a stroll watching and adoring the magnificent craft of Pichwai!

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