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Pichwai Paintings: The Traditional Art of Nathdwara

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

The Indian subcontinent is known for its rich art and cultural heritage. The rich and the ever indigenous art forms of India have never ceased to amaze the art patrons from around the world. India is one of the richest cultures in the world flaunting its countless Folk Arts and Crafts. 

The traditional handicrafts of India have always had a special place in the heart of Indian Folk culture and will continue to be special for the years to come. India has advanced today in many fields, but the traditional handicrafts of India still and has its own importance and heritage amongst the families who still make their living off these rich handicrafts that have great value in the global markets. One such traditionally acclaimed Art is the captivating art of Nathdwara, called The Pichwai. 

The Pichwai Paintings is a notable art form and of vital value to millions of devotees of Lord Krishna, and also the art lovers hailing from different parts of the world. If you are an art lover and get an opportunity to visit the Indian state of Rajasthan, you will surely hear about the Pichwai Paintings. Here’s all you need to know about The Pichwai Paintings: The Traditional Art of Nathdwara, Rajasthan. 

The brief history of Pichwai Paintings

The Pichwai Paintings date back to centuries, with its first mentions made in the scriptures dating back to 400 years ago. These paintings are the stunning art pieces depicting the childhood of Lord Krishna, referred to as Shrinathji. The stories and the object of the paintings revolve around the tales of Shrinathji, particularly the significant seasons and the festivals.

Most of the Pichwai Paintings cover the brief childhood pastimes of Lord Krishna and generally include elements like Gopikas, cows, and calves, and flute playing memories of Lord Krishna. The cloth on which the paintings are made has a focal point to create a wholesome effect for Krishna’s shrine. The tradition has been continued ever since, and today these Pichwai Paintings have a rich artistic heritage and value, taking place in the art galleries and the living room walls of art lovers who appreciate traditional handicrafts of India. 

What goes into the making of Pichwai Paintings?

The micro detailing and the enormity of the Pichwai Paintings tell just how much time consuming it can be to create one piece of painting. Generally, Pichwai Paintings take a few weeks for completion, and can even extend to a few months depending upon the intricacy of the art piece  

Originally, Pichwai Paintings were made on a handspun starch cotton fabric. The artisans would draw out the rough sketch on this starched fabric before they fill them up with beautiful and decorative details. The paints used are completely organic, derived from naturally occurring colors that were extracted from the gold liquids, silver, zinc, copper, saffron, flowers, leaves and so on. This added a rich nuance to each completed painting. 

The borders of the painting would then be decorated with crystals like Kundan stones and other shiny and crystalline stones, illuminating light and radiance. This extensive process of creating each Pichwai Painting increases its artistic value and heritage, making them one of the premium traditional handicrafts of India.

The Pichwai Paintings in its modern avatar

The Pichwai Paintings are undoubtedly one amongst the oldest and authentic traditional handicrafts of India with rich art history. However, creating them in modern-day contexts has changed and evolved over time. The artisans practicing the craft of  Pichwai Paintings today have retained the traditional process of making, with a touch of modernistic approach. In other words, the Pichwai Paintings that are made today are contemporized in a way that suits contemporary decor, but at the same time does not compromise with its authenticity and traditional touch. 

One such notable shift is the use of synthesized colors in the place of fully organic and naturally occurring colors. The unavailability of fully naturally occurring paint colors and the longer time needed to make natural paints have caused the artisans to turn to synthesized colors. Another change is in the size of the paintings where modern artisans are limiting the dimensions of the fabric to fit smaller spaces or art galleries. The utilization of these paintings too has gone far beyond the sole use in the Worship rooms or temples, and are rather viewed as pieces of art to be hung in the living room or art galleries. 

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