India is a land of rich cultural diversity, and its art forms are a testament to this diversity. One such captivating art form is Pichwai art, a traditional masterpiece that originates from the vibrant state of Rajasthan. Pichwai paintings are not just a visual treat but also an expression of devotion and tradition.
In this blog, we will delve into the world of pichwai paintings, exploring their history, types, and some prominent artists who have kept this traditional art alive, along with where to buy the best ones.
What is a Pichwai Painting?
A pichwai painting is a traditional Indian art form that originated in the town of Nathdwara in the state of Rajasthan. In Sanskrit, the words "pich" and “wai” mean "back” and "hanging," respectively, thus translating to a painting that hangs at the back. These paintings were traditionally used as decorative backdrops or hangings in temples dedicated to Lord Krishna, especially in the worship of the deity in the form of Shrinathji in the Nathdwara temple.
Pichwai paintings (also known as, pichhavai or pechhavaiare) are beautiful religious paintings, often created on cloth, depicting various scenes from the life of Lord Krishna, particularly focusing on his childhood and the events of his life in the town of Vrindavan. He is usually drawn surrounded by cows, Gopis (cowherd girls), peacocks, lotus flowers, and other elements of the natural world.
These paintings are characterized by their vibrant colours, intricate detailing, and elaborate designs. They not only serve a devotional purpose but also have aesthetic and cultural significance. Usually, Pichwai art graces the backdrop of the idol of Shrinathji, the focal point of Pushtimarg worship.
What are the Different Types of Pichwai Art?
Pichwai paintings come in various types, each with its own unique themes and styles. Some of the common types include:
1. Shreenathji Pichwai painting
Shrinathji is the seven-year-old child form of Lord Krishna, worshipped heavily in the heart of Rajasthan. As such, this divine manifestation of Krishna often takes centre stage in this art form. These exquisite Pichwai paintings predominantly revolve around the portrayal of Shrinathji's endearing childhood escapades and playful exploits.
2. Radha Krishna Pichwai Painting
One of the most renowned portrayals in the world of Pichwai art is the divine love story of Radha and Krishna. The mesmerizing Rasaleela, usually depicts Lord Krishna gracefully playing his flute, while Radha, his beloved, listens with rapt attention. These captivating artworks often feature the joyous presence of the Gopis, dancing in harmony around this celestial couple. For those who seek to bring this enchantment into their lives, consider ordering a Radha Krishna painting from Khofcrafts.com.
3. Lotus Pichwai Painting
Lord Krishna held a profound affection for the lotus flower, a symbol of purity and divinity. Many Pichwai paintings beautifully capture him with a lotus in his right hand and adorned with a garland of these resplendent blossoms. The lotus, with its timeless symbolism, also graces his sacred resting place.
4. Cow and Calf Pichwai Painting
Cows hold a sacred place in Hindu mythology and feature prominently in the tales of Krishna. Thus, they naturally become an integral part of numerous Pichwai paintings. These artistic masterpieces often depict the serene image of cows alongside their playful calves, evoking a sense of maternal tenderness and spiritual significance.
5. Peacock Pichwai Painting
In the world of Pichwai designs, the peacock often takes centre stage, adorning the divine crown of Shrinath Ji. These splendid paintings present Lord Krishna, resplendent in rich attire, cradled in festivity during the Janmasthami celebration. Peacocks and peacock feathers embellish his regal appearance, adding a beautiful splash of colours to the drawings.
6. Sharad Purnima Pichwai Painting
Among the diverse themes, one significant motif is the celebration of the autumn festival of Sharad Purnima. These artworks bring to life the enchanting swing ceremony of Radha and Krishna under the shimmering glow of the full moon.
7. Sandhya Aarti Pichwai
Transporting us to ancient times, the Sandhya aarti paintings unveil the heartwarming scene of Yashoda and the gopis extending a warm welcome to Krishna, Balarama, and their playful gopa friends as they return home from grazing with their cherished herd. This depiction encapsulates the essence of devotion and familial love, immortalized on canvas.
8. Annakut Form of Pichwai
The Annakut form of Pichwai is a popular depiction in Pichwai paintings, particularly in the context of offerings made by devotees. "Annakut" translates to "mountain of food" or "offering of food." This form of Pichwai illustrates a grand and elaborate presentation of various food items arranged in a mountain-like structure, symbolizing the offering of food to Lord Krishna, often in his form as Shrinathji.
9. 24 Swaroop of Shrinathji
The 24 swaroop, or chhavi, of Shrinathji represent his various divine forms or manifestations. These are:
- Balak Swaroop: In this Swaroop, Lord Shrinathji is depicted as a child, symbolizing innocence and purity.
- Ghanshyam Maharaj: This form represents the young and playful Krishna.
- Navnit Priyaji: Here, Lord Krishna is depicted as one who loves butter.
- Gopi Priyaji: This Swaroop signifies Krishna's affection for the Gopis, the cowherd maidens.
- Girdharji or Govardhan Swaroop: This is the Swaroop of Krishna as the lifter of Govardhan Hill.
- Kshemankariji: In this form, Lord Shrinathji blesses devotees with well-being and protection.
- Dwarkeshji: This Swaroop represents Lord Krishna as the ruler of Dwarka.
- Shringar Swaroop: In this form, Shrinathji is adorned with exquisite jewelry and regal attire, emphasizing his divine beauty and elegance.
- Jagdambe Priyaji: This form signifies Lord Krishna's devotion to his mother, Yashoda.
- Bhairavi Maa: Here, Lord Krishna is accompanied by the divine mother, Bhairavi.
- Madhavji: This form represents the Lord as the husband of Rukmini.
- Venu Gopal Swaroop: Featuring Lord Krishna playing his enchanting flute, symbolizing his melodious and captivating presence
- Radha Vallabhji: In this form, Lord Krishna is accompanied by Radha, his divine consort.
- Ranchorji: Showcases Lord Krishna in his form as the one who fled from the battlefield of Mathura to establish Dwaraka.
- Raja-Rajeshwarji: This form represents Lord Krishna as the king of kings.
- Mohanlalji: Here, Lord Shrinathji appears in an enchanting and captivating form, drawing devotees towards him.
- Dhruv Narayan Swaroop: Represents Shrinathji's role in helping young Dhruv in his devotion to Lord Vishnu.
- Vrajrajji: Lord Shrinathji is depicted as the king of Vrindavan.
- Ganapati Swaroop: Depicts Shrinathji alongside Lord Ganesha, signifying blessings and the removal of obstacles.
- Dinanathji: Lord Krishna is the sustainer of all beings in this form.
- Sakhi Priyaji: This form signifies Lord Krishna's affection for his female companions.
- Shambhav Priyaji: In this Swaroop, Lord Krishna is depicted as the beloved of his devotees.
- Rai Swaroop: Signifies Shrinathji as the protector of cows, often depicted with a cow.
- Gokul Nathji: This form represents Lord Krishna as the lord of Gokul, the village where he spent his childhood.
Pichavai paintings that show one or many of Shreenathji’s chhavi are a great option, especially if you’re a devotee (or gifting this to one).
Seven Noteworthy Pichwai Artists of India
Pichwai paintings have been nurtured and enriched by numerous talented artists over the years. Here are seven pichwai artists whose contributions have left an indelible mark on this beautiful traditional art form:
1. Rajaram Sharma
Rajaram Sharma, a dedicated Pichwai artist best known for honing his craft under the guidance of Tulsidas Ji, the head of the Shrinathji temple. His lifelong immersion in Pichwai art has resulted in exquisite paintings that vividly depict Lord Krishna's divine life. Operating from his own studio, "Chitrashala," in Udaipur, Rajaram Sharma has earned recognition, including the prestigious National Merit Certificate in 2016. His art graces esteemed locations, from the Shrinathji Temple in Nathdwara to the Victoria Monroe Fine Art Gallery in Boston, USA.
2. Raghunandan Sharma
Raghunandan Sharma, a renowned Pichwai artist in Nathdwara, treasures the legacy of Pichwai paintings passed down through generations. He creates his masterpieces with patience and uses priceless natural colours. Recently, he led a team of artists in crafting the monumental "Kamal Kunj," a colossal Pichwai painting measuring an impressive 27 x 57 feet. This masterpiece, part of the Reliance Foundation's initiative, celebrates the 400-year-old art form native to Nathdwara.
3. Suresh Sharma
Suresh Sharma's artistic talents extend beyond Pichwai art, as he crafted an exclusive Morakuti (peacock) Pichwai cover for AD India magazine. He is a co-founder of the "Artists of Nathdwara (AoN)" organization, established in 2015 to promote this art globally. Drawing inspiration from his illustrious grandfather, Bhurelalji, Suresh Sharma actively contributes to the revitalization of Pichwai designs, raising awareness both nationally and internationally.
4. Parmanand Sharma
Parmanand Sharma, immersed in Pichwai style since childhood, proudly continues the artistic legacy of his ancestors. As the mukhiya (leader) of the "Artists of Nathdwara," he draws inspiration from his renowned grandfather, Shri Champalalji, a 19th and early 20th-century artist of global acclaim. Parmanandji specializes in Nathdwara Pichwais and miniature paintings, carrying forward the torch of devotion through his artistic expressions.
5. Kalyanmal Sahoo
Kalyanmal Sahoo's remarkable journey from a farmer's background to becoming a Pichwai master is a testament to his talent and dedication. Recognized with a prestigious national award in 2011, his exceptional artworks, displayed in Rashtrapati Bhawan, have received national acclaim. Even the brother of the Dalai Lama has acknowledged his artistry, solidifying his reputation as one of the best Pichwai artists.
6. Shehzad Ali Sherani
Hailing from Kishangarh, Shehzad Ali Sherani is a well-known Pichwai artist who has received numerous awards and accolades, including the State Award and the Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academi Commendation certificate. He is responsible for reviving the Kishangarh School of Art and is known for his unwavering dedication to his craft.
7. Sri Daulat Ram
Sri Daulat Ram, born in Beawar, Rajasthan, is a remarkable traditional Rajasthani and Pichwai artist known for his depth and humility. He learned the art from his mentor, Sri Kalyanmal Sahu, and he specializes in Radha Krishna and Pichwai paintings.
Where Can I Buy the Best Pichwai Paintings
If you find yourself in Nathdwara and Udaipur, Rajasthan, then you have a great opportunity to get your hands on some great Shreenathji paintings and Nathdwara paintings. However, travelling every time you wish to buy one is impractical. Online stores like Khojcrafts.com are a great place to buy everything pichwai!
Online platforms offer a diverse range of Pichwai paintings, catering to various tastes and preferences, like pichwai cow paintings, lotus pichwai paintings, etc. Not only that, but you can find both modern pichwai paintings as well as antique pichwai paintings for sale on the Khojcrafts website.
Pichwai paintings make for extraordinary and meaningful gifts, due to the following reasons:
1. Spiritual Significance
2. Unique and Handcrafted
3. Cultural Heritage
4. Symbol of Blessings
5. Suitable for various occasions - weddings, housewarmings, birthdays, or religious festivals like Janmashtami
If you’re looking for gift options for cherished family and friends during this festive season? Well, now you know what to give them!
Interesting Facts About Pichwai Art
As we wrap up our exploration of Pichwai, here are some intriguing facts about this traditional Indian art form:
Revival through Vallabhacharya Sect
Pichwai art had faded into obscurity until it was rediscovered and celebrated by the devotees of the Vallabhacharya sect. This sect created 24 iconic poses of Lord Krishna set against the backdrop of Nathdwara, Rajasthan. Each Pichwai painting is intricately linked to the celebration of specific festivals, giving renewed prominence to this captivating art form.
Srinathji: The Divine Protector
In Pichwai paintings, the figure of Srinathji takes centre stage. This representation showcases Lord Krishna as a seven-year-old child with his left hand raised. It symbolizes the moment when he protected the villagers by holding the mighty Govardhan hill to shield them from a thunderstorm summoned by Indra, the God of rain.
Ornate Jewelry Adornments
One striking feature of Pichwai artwork is the elaborate jewellery adorning Srinathji. This art form mirrors the deity in the holy city of Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna is often depicted with a diamond-studded on his chin. The paintings echo this extravagance, featuring exquisite diamonds not only on the chin but also on the ring fingers.
Colours of Nature
Natural colours extracted from flowers, leaves, and semi-precious stones breathe life into Pichwai paintings. The shimmering effect is achieved through the use of pure gold and other precious metals, adding both value and splendour to the artwork.
Perfection Demands Posture
Pichwai designs leave no room for error, as even the smallest defects are easily detectable. Artists and creators adopt a specific posture to ensure precision during the intricate process of creating these enchanting masterpieces.
Versatile Display Options
Unlike some religious artworks, Pichwai paintings do not come with rigid rules for display. They lack a specific religious motive or belief, making them versatile ornaments for your walls that can be hung without strict guidelines.
Pichwai paintings are not merely artworks; they are a profound expression of devotion, tradition, and artistic excellence. This traditional Indian art form continues to captivate audiences worldwide with its rich history, vibrant colours, and intricate designs. Through the dedication of artists and the appreciation of enthusiasts, Pichwai art thrives, preserving the cultural heritage of India for generations to come.