Imagine you are holding your childhood album and you open it just with the thought of having a glimpse. Then suddenly you stop at that one picture. You gently touch the faces in that picture. You notice the details, the mood of the people, the place, the surroundings and with this, starts your journey down memory lane. You relive the story behind every picture and time flies. A few minutes of glimpses is now an hour-long ride to childhood.
If the lines above have managed to bring smiles to your face then yes, you are in the right state to understand the idea that is responsible for the genesis of Pichwai art.
Pichwai is a 400-year-old art form that originated in the town of Nathdwara, Rajasthan. The word Nathdwara literally means ‘A Gateway to Srinath Ji’. The word ‘Nath’ refers to Srinath Ji, the deity who is a 7-year-old incarnation of Krishna and ‘Dwara’ means gate.
Pichwais are elaborate and exquisite paintings that are devoted to the life story of Srinath Ji. Pichwais were first painted in the 17th century and the most common depiction of this art form includes a child Krishna deity lifting the Govardhan Mountain with his left hand and the right fist is shown resting on his waist. Exactly like the Srinath Ji idol at Nathdwara. In addition to this, everything, which is dear to the deity, forms an intrinsic content of Pichwai paintings. The Lotus flowers, Peacocks, Cows, Banyan tree, Yamuna River, Monsoon season are some of the objects commonly used to depict the incidents of the life of Srinath Ji. Often, the dancing deity is seen accompanied by His beloved Radha and the Gopikas.
One of the most popular incidents that is elaborately showcased through Pichwai paintings is the feast of 56 delicacies offered to the Lord. This is popularly known as ‘Chhappan Bhog’.
As per the story, Krishna lifted the Govardhan Giri to protect the people from the rains that were the result of Lord Indra’s wrath and he kept it lifted for seven days. In the ancient Puranas, the day is divided into a unit of time, which is approximately 3 hours. As such, there are eight units in a day, each of which is known as Prahar. The people of Braj took shelter beneath the Govardhan Giri for 7 days and they would provide a meal to Krishna for every Prahar. They would get anything easily available in the surroundings and would prepare food with the simplest methods. These meals constituted the food for Krishna who held the Govardhan Giri on his smallest finger of the left hand. Since the Lord held the mountain for seven days, which means for 56 Prahars, 56 meals were provided to Him. Therefore, Chhappan Bhog, which means 56 cuisines, is a feast to celebrate the greatness and the kind sight of Krishna that protected them during adversities.
Likewise, there is a beautiful and thought-provoking story behind every Pichwai painting.
Pichwai is a Sanskrit word where ‘Pich’ means behind and ‘Wai’ stands for hangings. Pichwais are mainly painted on cloths, which are used as hangings in the temples. The paintings are traditionally drawn on handwoven starched cotton fabrics and the colors used are purely organic and natural dyes. Even the brushes used to draw these paintings are made from the hair of the goat’s tail.
These paintings are distinguished by acute strokes, intricate details and graceful figures. The charm and elegance of this art form have captivated many and thus, this art form is no more restricted in the temples of Nathdwara. The Pichwai paintings are now being pursued by the artist community worldwide.
Pichwai paintings are a collection of childhood albums of the deity. A celebration of all his adorable moods. The pleasant and earthy sight of these paintings will surely leave you enchanted.