Interesting Facts about Pichwai and History of Pichwai

Originated in Rajasthan’s Nathdwara temple, almost 400 years ago, Pichwai art is a force to reckon with. The word ‘Pichwai’ comes from ‘pich’ (back) and ‘wai’ (textile wall hanging) and addresses the tradition of hanging Pichwai artworks depicting Srinathji, behind the deity. Today, these paintings are no longer restricted to the temple and adorn the walls of homes and offices due their bright hues and auspicious motifs. The traditionally ornate Pichwais can now be easily found on cushion covers, carpets, etc. However, this doesn’t diminish the beauty of Pichwai art in the least.

 

There are few fun facts about Pichwai that make it a relevant art form even today. Here are a few of them:

 

Interesting Facts about Pichwai and History of Pichwai

 

Pichwai Interesting Facts #1

 

 

In 1672, the deity of Srinathji—Lord Krishna’s avatar as a 7-year-old, was being transported from Mathura via Agra. The bullock cart’s wheel got stuck in the mud and this was seen as a divine intervention to build a temple here. Thus, the Nathdwara temple was built and gargantuan artworks were hung behind this deity, representing Srinathji’s life as a young child. Pichwai paintings narrate the tale of Krishna lifting the Govardhan Parbat on his little finger to protect the villagers from a torrential downpour. Thus, a genre of Pichwai artworks known as Annakut Pichwai shows Srinathji with his left hand raised. This story is an important part of the history of Pichwai.

 

Pichwai Interesting Facts #2

 

 

If you look closely at a Pichwai portrait, you’ll notice that Srinathji is always decked with a lot of ornaments. However, one of the lesser known Pichwai facts is that in Vrindavan, Srinathji’s idol had a diamond studded chin. In fact, Aurangzeb is believed to have attacked Mathura solely to acquire this gem. Therefore, a Pichwai portrait will always depict a heavily ornamented Srinathji with opulent necklaces, nose rings and finger rings. The history of Pichwai is so sacred that artisans spend hours on getting each ornament and pleat of his attire just right. A lot of Pichwai art is also embossed with gold details to add opulence to Srinathji’s image.

 

Pichwai Interesting Facts #3

 

There’s no room for error while creating Pichwai paintings. The designs are so intricate that even the smallest mistakes get amplified and are visible clearly. To ensure this, artists make these paintings by sitting on the floor in a fixed posture to minimize errors and create the most flawless artworks in Pichwai style. Pichwai famous paintings are created on a large canvas, usually a handspun starched cotton cloth which is filled with colours.

 

Pichwai Interesting Facts #4

 

One of the most interesting facts about Pichwai is its use of organic materials—be it the canvas made of handspun starched cotton cloth or the colours obtained from natural sources. Since the history of Pichwai goes back to 400 years ago, these ingredients were the easiest to find and use for making Pichwai artworks. Traditional Pichwai paintings were always made with natural ingredients for the canvas, colours and brushes. These colours would often take three to four days to be made and were obtained from flowers, leaves and semi-precious stones. Artists often looked to coal, zinc, indigo, saffron, gold, silver, etc. to extract colours. Squirrel, Goat and Horse hair were used to make the bristles for brushes. Therefore, Pichwai famous paintings have a bright colour palette consisting of red, yellow, black and green hues.

 

Pichwai Interesting Facts #5

 

 

One of the most shocking Pichwai facts is that this art form was more or less forgotten, until noticed by the devotees of Vallabhacharya sect. For them Pichwai art has a great significance. Vallabharcharya created 24 legendary poses of Lord Krishna against the backdrop of Nathdwara temple. Each of these Pichwai paintings corresponds to a specific festival. Imagine the loss if this vibrant art form hadn’t been rediscovered and revived!

 

Shri Vallabharcharya belongs to the Vaishnava tradition and founded ‘Pushtimarg’ which primarily worships Srinathji as its principal deity. Thankfully, Pichwai art is still here and gaining more prominence with each passing day.

 

Pichwai Interesting Facts #6

 

There are no rigid rules regarding the way Pichwai artworks should be hung. While Pichwai art may have originated in the Nathdwara temple, all paintings are not religious in nature. Perhaps, this is why Pichwai famous paintings have found a humble abode in the walls of many living rooms and offices. A lot of these artworks simply include natural motifs like flowers, animals and natural landscape. They are excellent options for large wall fine art for living room decorations.

 

Pichwai Interesting Facts #7

 

 

One of the least known Pichwai facts is that there are Pichwais for every season. In case you haven’t noticed, Pichwai famous paintings are filled with some common elements like lotuses, peacocks and cows. Each motif and symbol has a purpose and many of them often point to the season depicted in these paintings. Summer Pichwais are loaded with rosy pink lotuses across the canvas to give Srinathji some respite from the heat. Peacocks are an integral part of Morkuti Pichwais as they are seen celebrating the monsoon season or waiting to welcome the rain.

 

Head over to our Pichwai collection to see these facts play out on our artworks!

February 17, 2021 — Team Bimba