What is the legendary Phad Painting of Rajasthan?


Pabuji ki Phad, religious scroll painting, phad, folk painting, Phad Art.
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Rajasthan is home to countless indegenous ancient art forms. With the growing demand for digital art and modern creations, traditional arts like Phad painting of Rajasthan are fading away. 

One of the most intricate art, Phad is a form of religious storytelling through visuals that survived centuries. Keep reading to hop on a journey through a rich lineage of Phad paintings. 

History and Lineage of Phad Painting

A 700-year-old form of traditional Rajasthani folk art, Phad paintings find their origins in Shahpura, near the Bhilwara district of Rajasthan. The Phad scrolls were first commissioned by Chochu Bhat, a devotee of Lord Devnarayana and chronological mentor of Devnarayan’s clan in the 10th century A.D. A single family- Joshi Clan has passed down the religious paintings over generations. 

Till 50 years ago, the artists of Joshi lineage of the Chippa caste exclusively practiced Phad Painting. The Joshi family preserved the art form and its techniques, and only to the permanent members of the family got access to it. 

As the art form struggled for survival, Shree Lal Joshi opened a school ‘Joshi Kala Kunj’ in 1960 to teach Phad art. In 1990, ‘Chitrashala’ started and it accommodates artists outside the clan.

Today, the art has opted simpler ways and straightforward depictions. Considering the limitations of space in modern homes, the size of Phad paintings has reduced significantly.  

What is Phad Painting?

Pabuji ki Phad, religious scroll painting, phad, folk painting, Phad Art.
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Phad is a style of folk painting, traditionally done on a long piece of cloth or canvas. The word ‘Phad’ means canvas or fold in the local dialects of the region. An elaborate song-and-dance performance depicts the intricate and vibrant artwork. 

Moreover, the Phad paintings were mobile temples. The priest and his wife (Bhopa and Bhopi) of Rabari tribe carried the scroll paintings. The priest singers were nomads, who travel from village to village with their ravanhatta (a two-string instrument) and the phad paintings as visual presentations. They perform dramatic renditions of stories from the lives of Pabuji and Devnarayan and also, the Ramayana, Hanuman Chalisa, and other mythological sagas.

The Making and Technique of Phad Painting

Tribal Art Series – Phad Painting.

Phad paintings are not only complex in their stories, but the making process and techniques are just as elaborate. The first step is getting the canvas ready for painting. A mixture of wheat/rice flour is boiled with water. The boiling continues till it turns into a thick paste. The artist applies Kheriya Gond on the canvas, which is a local gum . The cloth is then stretched and dried in sunlight and then polished. A stone tool called Mohra makes the cloth smooth and shiny. 

The women artisans makes the colours used in Phad painting with natural elements. They extract it from stones, minerals and vegetation. The painting contains earthen colours with a dedicated palette for specific designs. For example, yellow is used for ornaments and orange for limbs and torso. The artist finishes the rough sketch and starts filling the paint one at a time. 

The painting begins on an auspicious day. This starts with offerings to Goddess Saraswati. A virgin girl of the painter’s family or of a higher caste paints the first stroke. Artist divides the entire scroll into several small sections, and creates a rough freehand sketch. Initially, the figures are painted in a light yellow colour and the process is called ‘Kachi likhai Karna’.

The Legend Of The Craft

Pabuji ki Phad, religious scroll painting, phad, folk painting, Phad Art.
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 Devanarayan, one of the main characters of Phad painting, was a medieval hero, worshipped as a folk-deity. 

As the legend goes, in the 10th century, Chochu Bhat, a devotee of Lord Devnarayna, commissioned Joshi Phad Painter to create a painting of the entire life of Devnarayan. Devnarayan bestowed the ‘Joshi’ caste to make Phad paintings. 

The devotes worship Pabuji as a folk-deity. The character of Pabuji, represented in Phad painting of Rajasthan, portrays him as a divine character and an incarnation of Laxmana. 

The Master Artists For Phad Painting 

Pabuji ki Phad, religious scroll painting, phad, folk painting, Phad Art.
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 Some noted Phad artists include –

Shree Lal Joshi – kept the art form alive and received many national as well as international awards, like the Padma Shri and the Shilp Guru award. 

Pradip Mukherjee- revived the art form to a great extent. 

Other known Phad artists are – Shanti Lal Joshi, Shri Vijay Joshi, Shamsher Khan, Nand Kishor Joshi, and Prakash Joshi.

Why Is Phad painting Getting Endangered? 

The communities practicing Phad painting closely guarded the traditions to protect its authenticity. Further, this naturally led to the endangered survival of the art form. Despite the efforts of Shree Lal Joshi and his sons, Gopal and Kalyan Joshi, there are only a few artists practicing the art full-time. 

The efforts of the Joshi family, in addition to other renowned Phad artists such as Pradeep Mukherjee. They have helped sustain and revive this incredible art form to some extent by enhancing its commercial value and generating employment for Phad artists, but the exposure and awareness remain limited. 


Since modern lifestyles rule the world, the need to promote rich artistic traditions from the past has grown multi-fold. Rajasthan Art forms like Phad painting not only preserve the glory of Indian culture but also depict stories of the olden times. The tales travelled through centuries, that depict India at its richest, can only sustain through traditional arts like Phad. 

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