Phad Paintings, Rajasthan

phad-painting rajasthan

Indian cloth paintings are famous in every corner of the world. Phad paintings have their own styles and patterns. They are famous due to their bright colors and historic themes.

Phad painting is a type of religious scroll painting, which uses bright colors. The material used is local Khadi or canvas. Bhilwara district of Rajasthan is known for Phad paintings. The paintings describing achievements of local idols are often carried from place to place. They are accompanied by traditional singers, who describe the theme depicted on the scrolls.


Traditionally, artists do Phad painting on a long piece of cloth or canvas, known as “Phad”.  They paint the stories of the folk idols of Rajasthan, mostly of Pabuji and Devnarayan on the Phads. These painted Phads are used as the mobile temples of the folk deities by the Bhopas, the priest-singers. The Phads of Pabuji are usually about 15 feet in length, while the Phads of Devnarayan are normally about 30 feet long. Phad painting of Goddess Kali is abandoned now.

A virgin girl from the artist’s family or a higher caste family makes the first stroke of color. The artist uses only one color at a time, filling it in wherever needed. Another striking feature is that the figures in the paintings always face each other instead of the viewer. Artists cover every available inch of canvas with figures. The size of the characters depicts social hierarchy.

Traditionally, artists paint phads with vegetable colors. Women of the community prepare colors while the men are responsible for the preparation of the Phad in itself to be painted on.

Method of Preparation:

Kalaph Banana: The artist makes a mixture of wheat/rice flour and boils it with water till it changes into a thick fine paste.

Kalaph Lagana: The artist then applies the paste and gum on the cloth.

Sukhana: Then the artist stretches the cloth and dries well in sunlight.

Ghotana: Then he files the cloth with a stone device (Mohra) to make it smooth and shining. The cloth is now ready and works as well as canvas.

Rang Banana: The artist makes his paints from gum, powdered earthen colors, water, and indigo. He keeps a grinding stone and grinds the colors with gum and water. The artist gives Tempera effect by using earthen colors. The artist obtains blue color from Indigo.

Kachi Likhai Karna: The painter, first of all, divides the entire scroll into a number of sections and sub-sections, then he prepares a rough sketch of the entire painting in light yellow color.

Rang Lagana: As the rough sketch is ready, the artist starts painting in layer pattern from lighter to darker colors. Artists give orange color to limbs or torso of figures.

Phad scrolls are almost a thousand hundred years old. Chochu Bhat, a devotee of Lord Devnarayana, in 10th-century selected Joshi Phad Painter to make a Phad painting on Devnarayan’s entire life. Then on, Devnarayan privileged “Joshi” caste to make Phad paintings and since then “Joshi” are doing Phad painting.

Shree Lal Joshi, Nand Kishor Joshi, Prakash Joshi and Shanti Lal Joshi are the well-known artists of the Phad painting.

Only Joshi family knew the secrets of Phad painting. However, Joshi established ‘Joshi Kala Kunj’. Now ‘Chitrashala’ in 1960 to develop new artists other than the Joshi family. He took upon himself the task of revitalizing this art, even at the international level.

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