Pichwai, Natural Color on Cloth, 73 x 49 inches
‘Pichwai’ has its roots in the Sanskrit words, ‘pich’ meaning ‘behind’, and ‘wai’ meaning ‘hanging’. Pichwai paintings originated approximately 400 years ago in Rajasthan, India illustrating reincarnation of Lord Krishna, ‘Srinath ji’, on dark, rich fabric or paper. Traditionally posited as backdrop to the actual idol, the paintings have deeply religious roots and are executed in a group with the utmost devotion by the artists. The purpose of pichwais is to narrate the ‘leelas’ or magic-induced performances by Krishna, like in the Govardhan leela, where Krishna lifts the Govardhan mountain on his little finger to protect the village, which is one of the more frequent representations. Depictions of Radha, gopis, cows, snakes and lotuses are frequently seen as well. Over the years, various local styles of Pichwai have emerged of which the most prevalent ones are the Nathdwara style, known for its expressive portraiture; Deccan style, with its use of silver and gold leaf; and Kishangarh style, famous for its Mughal inspired miniature form. Pichwai paintings have gained a lot of interest internationally, majorly exported from Nathdwara.