Know Your Handicrafts : Phad Painting




Place of Origin: RAJASTHAN, 14th century

Genre: Painting, Vegetable Dye on Cloth


Usually done on khadi /canvas / cotton cloth. The material is first stiffened with starch made of boiled flour and glue and then tempered with a special stone device called ‘mohra’  to smoothen the surface. The artist makes his own pigments using locally available plants and minerals, mixing them with glue and water. Once the outline is drawn in light yellow or black, the artist applies the traditional colours – red, white, green, blue, orange and brown.

The Joshi families of Bhilwara, Shahapura are known as the traditional artists of this folk art form

Typical features :

The entire canvas is covered with images. The pictorial space is usually flat, without perspective. The  artists use scales when drawing the figures to indicate their relative social status or importance within the story. The figures are painted in profile. These paintings have a strong narrative element; they traditionally tell the stories of local Pabuji, Devnarayan, Krishna, Ramdal (Ramayana) and Ramdevji. Of these, the most legendary and popular is that of Pabuji, who is considered a demi god in Marwar even today. A common icon found in these paintings is that of Pabuji astride the Kesar Kalimi, a beautiful black mare. The complex nature of the stories represented in the paintings is perhaps the reason for the large width of the traditional Phads.

For the Trivia Buff:

This art form could have got its name from the word, ‘Phad’ , which means folds in a Rajasthani dialect

Historically, these paintings were used as narrative aids by wandering story tellers, the Bhopas. The Bhopas perform all the year round, except in rainy season when the deities are supposed to be in slumber. The musical instruments the Bhopas used were the Ravanahatha.

Another type of phad, that has now been abandoned was that of the Goddess Kali. Painted for a particular caste of the untouchable Bhopa, it was distinctively different from the rest, as it was done in the batik style, using wax.


Sources :

Paramparik Karigar Archives


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