Phad, the large horizontal scroll paintings on cloth that portray the stories from Hindu religious texts and Rajasthan’s local deities, date back to almost a millennium.
The art has kept pace with the changing times and today Phad paintings depict not only stories of Ramayana, Hanuman Chalisa, Durga Saptashati and other religious texts but also educate people about the Coronavirus pandemic, water conservation, their rights and duty around casting vote and much more.
The Phad tradition traces its origins to Pur village in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district.
The Joshi family from Pur village has been the custodian of the Phad tradition, which is now being promoted by national award-winning artist Kalyan Joshi and his family.
Kalyan Joshi, his late father Shree Lal Joshi and brother Gopal Joshi are all recipients of the Padma Shri for their contribution to the Phad art.
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Phad means to fold and these paintings measuring 20-30 feet in length were mobile temples that were rolled or folded. They were carried from village to village by Bhopas, the local bards belonging to the cattle herder Rebari community.
Phad paintings are done on cotton cloth, which is pre-washed and beaten to make it soft and smooth. The Phad is divided into four parts and designs are sketched on the cloth with a pencil. These are then filled with natural colours.
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Along with his father, Kalyan Joshi also set up Chitrashala, a training institute for reviving and contemporising the folk art. It is a platform for youngsters to learn and practice Phad.
Here are some Phad paintings by Kalyan Joshi and his students at Chitrashala:
Shri Ramayana, the epic, depicted as a scroll painting by Kalyan Joshi. Pic: through Kalyan Joshi
Hanuman Chalisa, the timeless ode to Lord Hanuman, on a scroll. Painting by Kalyan Joshi.
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Kalyan Joshi painting on a wall to create awareness around water conservation.
A Phad painting depicting the importance of various water sources and their conservation. Pic: through Chitrashala
A scroll on Coronavirus, how it spreads, the importance of social distancing, COVID warriors and the impact of virus on human lives. Painting by Kalyan Joshi.
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A colourful Phad painting driving home the importance of washing hands during COVID. Pic: through Chitrashala
A Phad calling upon people to caste their vote and keep up the spirit of democracy. Pic: Chitrashala
Another painting emphasising on voting for a better future. Pic: through Chitrashala
The story of Lord Pabu ji narrated through a scroll. Pic: Kalyan Joshi
A Phad on Lord Hanuman with scenes from the epic, Ramayana. Painting by Kalyan Joshi.
(Urvashi Dev Rawal is a Jaipur-based journalist specialising in development, gender, and political reporting)
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