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Phad Painting: Thriving through innovation

May 06, 2015

Phad painting has a distinct characteristic – it is done horizontally where people tend to face each other rather than facing the audience.

Phad Painting

Jaipur: As the famous Nobel laureate Sir Winston Churchill has said, "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse." The same is true for Indian handicrafts, an art which has not only embedded the old traditions but also incorporated new innovations from time to time.

One such art form is Phad Painting. The word Phad is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Patt’. This art has its base in Rajasthan and is expressed on cloth, paper and pots. Through this art, artists depict the life of two legendary local heroes i.e. Pabuji and Dev Narayanji, considered to be incarnation of lord Vishnu and Laxman.

Phad painting has a distinct characteristic – it is done horizontally where people tend to face each other rather than facing the audience. Representing the local folk culture, artists paint people engrossed in dancing and conversations with each other.

Originated from the Mewar folk tradition of Rajasthan, Phad painting represents the epic tales in the form of episodes. Though in the 60s this art was on the verge of extinction, but the efforts of Chitrashala, a pioneer institute for training on Phad painting; more than 200 students have saved this art with their continuous efforts.

Pradip Mukherjee, based in Udaipur and an alumnus of Chitrashala and the recipient of the prestigious Shilp Guru award, says that the art of Phad, itself, is around 600 years old and is a centuries-old tradition. Talking about the recent innovation in the art form, Mukherjee added, "Earlier Phad painting was done only on cloth, but now I have changed it into miniature scroll form on papers and pots, too, which can be easily followed by anyone else."

For many of us who think that a career choice is made by individuals, in this case, it was the art itself that chose Mukherjee. A graduate in Commerce from the Calcutta University, he was so fascinated with this art that he devoted his entire life into it.

Artists are people who not only think differently but create a masterpiece that attracts everyone. This, too, happened with Mukherjee when he was showcasing his art in an exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany.

Describing the memorable moment, Mukherjee said, "There was an old man who usedto visit my stall daily to watch me paint till dusk. On the last day of the exhibition, he kissed my hands and started crying. I could not understand what was happening until I was told that the man was showing respect for the art. He was sad as he won't be able to spend time watching me paint. I was moved."

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As the famous poet Thomas Merton popularly said, "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." This applies to all who love those arts, who want to conserve it for the generations to come and lose themselves for the sake of it. Perhaps then, we can create an environment where respect for the art and artist will prosper.

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