Do you know The legend behind Phad Painting?

Phad Painting

The Legend Behind Phad Painting

A land drenched in vibrant cultures and rich traditions; Rajasthan is every art lover’s ultimate dreamland. Rajasthan’s contribution towards varied art forms has transcended centuries and continues to evolve and elevate with time even now. A significant part of its culture and tradition is the myriad painting styles that have carried with them eons of stories and heritage. Filled with vibrant visual representations, Phad Painting is one such traditional art form rooted in color, craft, and charisma that’s culturally and historically significant. Let’s take a look at this folk painting’s unique history, origin, and the efforts put into its revival.

The Origin of Phad Painting

This painting is originated in Shahpura near the Bhilwara region of Rajasthan by the Joshi family. Phad painting of Rajasthan is a centuries-old legacy that traveled down through generations of a single family. The Phad is an indigenous painting style of Rajasthan that’s renowned for depicting the narratives of the folk deities of the state. Containing an amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal painting styles, this fabled heritage is crafted on a long piece of scroll or canvas called Phad.

Mughal influence on Phad Painting, Image source:

A Traveling Temple

The uniqueness of Phad paintings lies in their portrayal and depiction. Pabuji, a local folk deity, and Devnarayanji, a reincarnation of Vishnu, were the common subjects of most Phad paintings. They were a form of traveling or mobile temples, featuring a blend of performance and visual art and carried by priest-singers of the Rabari tribe, Bhopas and Bhopis, the priest and his wife. The Bhopa carried a two-string musical instrument known as Ravanahatha and his wife Bhopi would sing and dance to the tune while reciting poetries and narrating dramatic renditions of stories from the Ramayana, Hanuman Chalisa, and other mythological tales. Phad means ‘fold’ in the local dialect. And the reason why it’s named so is that the Bhopas would unfold the Phad paintings after sunset and begin their performance. The performance, an entertaining event for the whole village, would last well into the night and end only in the early morning.

Did you know? The story of Nathdwara and Pichwai Painting.

Black and white Phad painting technique- Rasleela, image source: Directcreate

Techniques and Traditions of Phad Painting

A single piece of Phad painting can take a few weeks to a few months to complete as it needs a high amount of precision and skill involving ancient techniques taught by ancestors. The cloth used for Phad painting is hand-woven coarse cotton that is soaked overnight, thickened with rice or wheat flour starch, and then dried in the sun. The dried paper is then polished with moonstone to give it a glossy finish. Even the paints are made from naturally sourced items like flowers and fruits and then mixed with water and gum.

Colors used

Red, orange, yellow, brown, blue, green, and black, are the popular colors found in a Phad painting and each color serves a specific purpose. Green for trees and vegetation, brown for buildings and architectures, orange for torso and limbs, red for flags, thick borders, and royal cloths, blue for water, and yellow for ornaments, outlines, and clothes. Black is usually applied at the end as a final outline. Every inch of the canvas is usually covered in intricate details and designs. Eyes are the most important part of the paintings which are usually added last. After this, the painting is ready for worship. Since stories make up the core of these art forms, you’ll find several graceful figures distributed throughout the canvas in Phad paintings. The size and scale of each figure are determined by the social status they hold in the story that’s narrated. One of the most unique features of Phad paintings is that all the figures are flat. They don’t face the audience or the viewer of the painting, but each other.

Do you wish to learn the secrets and techniques of this wonderful art form? Does the thought of learning this art form from renowned Phad painting artists entice you? Then we have the perfect solution for you. Hop on to Rajasthan Studio’s Masterclass page and pick a workshop session that’s convenient to you and get ready to become a Phad painting pro artist. Exciting news! Get trained personally from the artist who is adept at it. Hakuna Matata! Get all of it at one click.

Mobile Temples Of Rajasthan – Phad Painting With Pradeep Mukherjee & Shamsher Khan

Masterclass Workshop
A glimpse from the Masterclass Workshop

What is a Masterclass Workshop?

Rajasthan Studio has specially curated personalized Masterclass Workshops. This ensures the privilege of one to one learning from the expert artists. We only take limited seats in each workshop. Not only you can understand the art technique vividly but also practically do it along. Take back best of the learnt skills and art pieces.

Phad Painting, Image source: ArtsofIndia

Carrying the Legacy Forward

Owing to the deep-rooted culture and traditions associated with this art form, the techniques involved in these paintings were closely guarded for several years. However, the threat of extinction led to its revival and prompted Shree Lal Ji Joshi, a celebrated Phad painter, and Padma Shri recipient, to set up Joshi Kala Kunj in 1960. The school, now renamed Chitrashala, specializes in teaching the art of Phad painting without compromising on the techniques and originality of the art form. While once the art form was only taught to permanent members of the Joshi family, in Chitrashala. Artists from everywhere are taught the secrets of Phad, which has led to the revival and popularization of this beautiful art form. Moreover, besides Devnarayanji and Pabuji, characters and stories from Mahabharata, Ramayana, Hanuman Chalisa, and even the Panchatantra are depicted on the paintings to make them more attractive to the masses.

Phad painting, Image source:

In a nutshell:

Thanks to all the revival attempts by the Joshi family and other renowned Phad artists. This wonderful art form continues to exist even today, creating employment for Phad artists and increasing its commercial value. However, despite these efforts, the number of artists who practice Phad painting full-time is staggeringly low. These ancient artistic traditions seeped in richness and culture need to be preserved and promoted on a larger scale not just because of their visual appeal. But also because they are a reflection of India’s glorious culture and the carrier of our traditions, folklore, and stories.

Follow Rajasthan Studio on Instagram for more amazing art and travel content. Reach out to us on email at contact[at]rajasthanstudio[dot]com. This blog is curated by Rajasthan Studio and written by Shivai Rai.

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