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The Revival

The Revival

Pichwai is a meticulously detailed, hand-painted textile traditionally hung behind the idol of Shrinathji, an incarnation of the Hindu god Krishna. The primary intent of this art form is the celebration of Krishna’s life episodes. Different paintings are made on different occasions, different seasons, festivals, and so on. Sometimes rich embroidery or appliqué work is used on the paintings. Enclosed in a dark border, rich colors like red, green, yellow, white and black are used, with a lot of gold decorating the figures.

This rare traditional art form from India dates back to the 17th century, that is native to the small temple town of Nathdwara in Udaipur, Rajasthan. There are very few numbers of local artists that practice this art today, and sadly many of them are out of work due to various reasons. Some of the skilled ones are not in touch with the market and are, making them unable to thrive. They have thus taken to painting furniture or other home goods. Some of the younger artists are not keen to go through the long hours of training that the older artists go through. Each painting takes weeks and sometimes months, where people work in groups. For many artists now, they hope for quick returns without the required years of training.

Like several other traditional Indian art forms, the art of Pichwai is also dying and requires recognition and revival.

Connotations of Color

  • Dark Blue: Lord Krishna’s skin color in paintings is shown as dark blue. In general, Pichwai’s are typically made on a dark blue, red background to accentuate the other colors.
  • Light Blue: Inspired by the houses that are painted in the “Chitron Ki Galli” - "Street of Paintings"thdwara. These houses were made in mud and painted with a mix of Safeda (white) and Neel (Indigo).
  • Red: Color of the idol’s clothes, Pichwai’s are typically made on a dark blue, red background to accentuate the other colors. (Reference In India - Red indicates both sensuality and purity. In Hindu religion, red is of utmost significance and the color most frequently used for auspicious occasions like marriages, the birth of a child, festivals, etc. A red mark is put on the forehead during ceremonies and important occasions.)
  • Pink: The color of lotus
  • Off-white: The color of the cows and nightclothes of the idol.
  • Green: Foliage
  • Yellow: Foliage