Nathdwara Painting refers to a painting tradition and school of artists that emerged in Nathdwara, a town 40 kms north of Udaipur city, in the Western state of Rajasthan in India.
Nathdwara paintings are of different sub-styles of which Pichhwai paintings are the most popular. The word Pichwai derives from the Sanskrit words ‘Pich’ meaning back and ‘Wais’ meaning hanging.
These paintings are cloth paintings hung behind the image of the Hindu god Shrinathji of Nathdwara.
The Nathdwara school is a subset of the Mewar school of painting and is seen as an important school in the 17th and 18th century miniature paintings. The sub-styles of Mewar painting include Udaigarh, Devgarh and Nathdwara as important centers of miniature production.
Nathdwara Pichwai Paintings : Online Tutorials :
The local temple of Shrinathji is believed to have provided a boost to the art activities in the town. It is recorded that to avoid the oppression of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the image of Shrinathji, a child manifestation of the Hindu god Krishna was installed in Nathdwara in 1670 by Goswami priests from Mathura. After this, many artists, motivated by religious fervor came and created paintings of Srinathji.
Pichwai Painting Artists :
Pichhwai paintings are intricate paintings which portray Lord Krishna in different moods, body postures, and attire more commonly found on a cloth or paper. It is a very ancient form of art passed on from generation to generation and has a very devotional theme on Lord Krishna.
Other than its artistic appeal, the purpose of Pichhwais, is to narrate tales of Krishna to the illiterate. They have become the main exports of Nathdwara and are in much demand among foreign tourists in Rajasthan.
These artists mostly live in ‘Chitron Ki Gali’ (Street of paintings) and ‘Chitrakaron Ka Mohallah’ (Colony of painters) and make a close community with constant interaction. It is no wonder that many a times a Pichhwai painting is a group effort, where several skillful painters work together under the supervision of a master artist.
Most works produced in this style revolve around the figure of Shrinathji as a manifestation of Krishna. There are also paintings that show the Lord in different costumes celebrating different festivals. Other themes like Krishna with mother Yashoda, baby Krishna etc are also painted in this style. Some of the paintings are gem-encrusted.
The Shrinathji idol is the principal deity of the Nathadwara Haveli, with the left arm of the deity always raised above his head lifting Mount Govardhana, while his other hand resting on his waist.
Nathadwara is the present headquarters of the Pushti Margiya Vaishnavite cult of Hinduism.
Nathadwara paintings display a high degree of skill in draughtsmanship, portraiture and in composition. Krishna Leela paintings depict Krishna’s childhood and scenes from his early life in Gokul such as playing in mother Yashoda’s lap, stealing butter, Ras Leela with Radha and other Gopis, lifting Govardhana mountain etc.
Nathadwara is a meeting point of various styles of Rajasthani paintings because painters of this school have migrated from places representing various Rajasthani traditions of painting.