The Untold Story of Rajasthani Art- Phad Painting

phad painting

Phad Painting an Art Of Painting

India is a diverse country and has a wide variety of art forms, reflecting our culture and tradition. Paintings like phad paintings, tanjore paintings, warli paintings and Handicrafts like dhokra art, blue pottery art, and wooden carvings etc,  are one of the spectacular arts where you can see the talent of authentic Indian rural craftsmen and artists.

Our trip to Rajasthan was a memorable one!!!

We were visiting different shops meeting vendors and craftsmen having look at a variety of products and placing orders for them. As we do it in most our trips. But that day was a special one; we came across these beautiful Paintings hung on the walls. The colours painted were so vibrant and attractive. It was a long stretch painted like it was a story painted on the walls. After seeing such a stunning piece of art we decided to step in that very moment. By entering the store we saw an artist sitting at a side busy painting his canvas. We greeted him and went near to see what he was painting.

He was giving fine details to the painting and when asked what he was drawing he said it is a Phad painting. That’s how we met this talented artist named Sunil Somani. Mr. Somani is a trained Phad painting artist and is in this profession for 15 years.

 “It’s a story of a festival celebrated with Raja Rani in their empire”, said Mr. Somani when he saw us looking at the paintings.

 Since it was a great opportunity to know more about this Phad painting art we decided to take a quick interview of this Phad artist,Mr. Sunil Somani”.

phad painting

Phad painting is originated from Bhilwara district, Rajasthan.  The Phad painting is the oldest form of art and it was started by Mr. Joshi’s family. Initially, the art was carried from one generation to other and only the family members painted and were trained in Phad painting art. Later on, as the demand increased people started joining the institute and learning the art. The families of these artisans still reside in Bhilwara and Shahpura district of Rajasthan and are still following their year’s old painting profession.

You must be wondering what exactly Phad painting is? 

Phad means story telling art which is hand-painted on a long cotton cloth using natural mineral colors. The paintings are 18*5 feet long max. It takes 2 to 3 months to complete this long stretch of painting. Phad depicted the folk stories of Gods Pabuji and Dev Narayan Ji of Rajasthan, but nowadays they also paint mythological stories like Krishna Leela, Ramayana, Shakuntala, Prithviraj, etc. Mr. Somani said, that Phad is a ‘Chalto Phirto Devo ‘. It means that it has stories of God and it is like a mobile temple. Bhopa community is the one that travels places in Rajasthan and in the evening they narrate stories of God that are painted in the Phad in a poetic form or by singing. Phad painting is believed to be sacred and hence many rituals are performed while making it. The long stretch of Phad painting are opened after the sunset by Bhopa’s and people gather to see the act performed. It is like a pilgrim for many.

phad paintingThe process of making a Phad painting is time-consuming. Handmade starched cotton cloth, natural mineral and stone colours are required for Phad painting. Traditional Colours like yellow, green, orange, brown, red and black are used for making these painting. New colours like grey, violet, pink, ocher yellow are also added to the paintings now days. The Red colour represents the chivalry of the Rajputs of Mewar. The border of these paintings is red and the main character in centre is always very big and his dress is always red. The red color is made from Sangrak stone found in the Himalayas, Blue from Indigo found in Kota, Orange from Sindoor, Brown from Geru Soil, Black from soot of chimney, Katha, Goond and Bisabol poison is added so that the painting does not get rotten by worms.

“Pupil of the eyes is made after the painting is completely ready it is said that the once the pupil is drawn the painting comes alive like a sacred image that becomes real with the eyes. It becomes ready for worshipping and then we cannot sit on it or draw anything else,“ said Mr. Somani. 

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The painting is divided into 4 parts; each part has a story depicting the life of Pabuji. The first part has his childhood life, second part has his wedding story, third part is the center part where his court room story is painted and the last one the fourth part has his battle stories and his death scene. The scenes painted on the Phad are painted in the same place as it was painted 700 years back. There is not continuity, the characters are scattered so there is a helper of Bhopa which has a small diya in hand and it keeps on focusing on the character while the story is narrated, it’s just like a spotlight.

phad painting
(Image Courtesy – storyltd.com )

Further Mr. Somani added, “It was initially started by Joshi family and they use to teach Phad to their daughter-in-laws and not daughters, this would preserve the art. Now 12 to 14 family members of Joshi family are the one that make Phad painting.  Later this art of Phad painting was thought to others who were interested in learning.”

phad painting

Mr. Somani is practicing this Phad painting since 15years. His wife and his son assists him for the same, he makes figurines while they add colours to them. He started his first Phad in year 2002 by painting on a 4mm thick teak wood ply called Veneer. He started painting with new concepts, new designs, different sizes and also added many new colours to it. He gave a new concept with the same old stories. Instead of making long stretches he started painting on small canvas so that it can be used for interior decorations, home decor, office decor and other decors too. I named it as”Fusion Phad Painting” said Mr. Somani. He also said that, this is my small art gallery and I have 200 to 300 paintings readily available and I also do exhibitions in India and Abroad.“ The paintings have no glass covering so it can be easily cleaned and maintained as they are chemically coated, light in weight and non reflective.

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To buy such amazing Phad Paintings made by Mr.Somani, Click here.

After discovering such a brilliant art form, it was a must to add these Phad Paintings to our online Handicraft store. We decided to pick best designs made by Mr. Sunil Somani and sell it online giving a global platform to such a skilled artist and making Phad Painting art recognised worldwide.

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