Terrible rains and thunderstorms wrecked the land and submerged it in water, and to save the people of Vrindavan, Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan hill from his left hand. This tale of Lord Krishna is prominently known across India and forms Pichwai art’s basis.
Four hundred years ago, in Nathdwara, Rajasthan, the Pichwai art originated with the motive of narrating tales of Krishna’s life. This art form is considered the best way for devotees of Krishna to experience ‘the colours of Krishna’. The Sanskrit words Pich (behind) and Wai (hanging) are the root words of Pichwai. It refers to paintings hung on the walls of temples or houses. In the 16th century, after the Nathdwara temple was constructed, local artists began decorating the temple with Pichwai paintings.
Pichwai artwork is mainly done on cloth and demands immense focus and practice on the artist’s part. Pichwai depicts another form of Lord Krishna, Srinathji, lifting the Govardhan hill from his left hand. A typical Pichwai painting has 24 boxes known as Swaroops. Within each Swaroop, Krishna, Radha, Gopis, Lotus, Cows and other elements associated with Lord Krishna are painted. In the centre of the painting is a fascinating, detailed image of Srinathji. A Pichwai painting has many features merged together, which are adequately balanced. The details in Pichwai paintings lead the final product to take a couple of weeks or months.
Traditionally, Pichwai was painted on ‘hand-spun starched cotton fabric,’ on which the artists would create the sketch. Lastly, the magnificent illustrations were painted with colours obtained from indigo, coal, gold, silver and other natural resources, completing the painting. ‘The bright and intense colours like yellow, green, black, and red dominate the Pichwai. The ornate part would get pure gold like colour. The borders are enhanced with crystals and other decorative elements’. Finally, the image of Srinathji is provided with features like a ‘big nose, large eyes and fat belly’, radiating ‘divine feelings.’
Pichwai paintings mainly portray six festivals- Janmashtami, Nand Mahotsav, Raas Leela and Sharad Purnima, Govardhan Puja, Gopashtami, and Holi- with the image of Srinathji in the centre with his left hand held up high. Other features differ depending upon the festival portrayed.
Pichwai art prevalent now is not only restricted to temple walls. It is also found in homes for home decor in the forms of wall hangings, bed sheets, cushion covers, carpets and many more. To make this art form prevalent today, artists and craftsmen have added a touch of contemporary art without losing or compromising on the traditional aspect.
The Pichwai collection of Kaunteya brings the Pichwai art to households as dinnerware. ‘It is a very high-end crockery collection with elegant designs and fine quality. The range is exclusive and cannot be compared to other printed bone china available in the market’, says Ankur Jain, a customer of Kaunteya. The dinnerware collection at Kaunteya is one of the most unique, hand crafted and high-quality collections.
The Pichwai series uses the contemporary form of this traditional art, and for further enhancement, it is embellished with 24k gold. The series includes various products like dinner plates, side plates, soup bowls, tea cups, coffee mugs and many more.
The dinnerware in this series has sketches of cows, trees and lotuses, the significant elements of Lord Krishna’s childhood. The cows immediately remind one of Krishna spent in Vrindavan and Gokul as a cowherd playing with his friends. The lotus reminds one of Lord Vishnu holding the lotus in his hand. The various colours complement these paintings in different articles with a touch of gold, giving an alluring look to the products and subtly and evidently simultaneously highlighting the sketches.