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Part - III
The holy and sacred Cow, is traditionally known as 'Dhenu', contrary to the popular belief that it is referred to as Nandi (which means a bull). Dhenus play a significant role in the story of Lord Krishna and therefore form an integral part of Pichwai paintings. The impressions of hands on dhenus stand for blessings of Lord Krishna, His touch of love, protection and compassion towards cowherds and their cows.
Gopashtami is a festival that celebrates the day, young Lord Krishna was promoted to the rank of a full-fledged cowherd and got the title of Gopala – The Lord of Cows. The Gopashtami Pichwai generally showcases Shreenathji playing flute to enchant his dhenus. He is also shown either at the gates of the haveli or in his sanctum where He is surrounded by a number of dhenus – ardently there to seek the Lord.
Morakuti Pichwais are named after a little village near Vraj, also known as Mayur Kuti. Krishna danced like a mor (peacock) here to please Radha. These Pichwais are displayed in sanctum during monsoon season. A typical Morakuti Pichwai shows plenty of peacocks dancing on the banks of river Yamuna, as rain clouds gather. Gods assemble in their chariots above to witness the divine dance.
Deccani or Golconda style of Pichwais originated in Hyderabad. These distinct Pichwais are characterized by lavish use of gold & silver foils applied over drawn images on a deeper colour palette (like reds and blacks). Krishna is rarely portrayed figuratively in these works. The Vrikshachari Pichwai is one example which shows Krishna’s presence in the Kadamba tree. The gopis are shown in typical Deccan way of dress and jewellery, dhenus with longer bodies, the foliage is lush umbrella type with straight tree trunks.
Among the numerous narrow lanes around Lord Shreenathji's Haveli in Nathdwara is the street 'Chitrakaron ki Gali' where artists reside and practice world famous Pichwai art. Beautiful motifs from the art adorns the walls of the houses and streets giving the place a festive vibe all year round.
The setup in Pichwai karkhana, is like a pyramid representing Mount Govardhan. At the top is a master, a well-known artist, followed by a middle order of assistants, and then their apprentices. But sadly, of late embellished wooden cut-outs and printed images of the Shreenathjis' icon throngs the shops in Nathdwara, signalling an urgent revival of this age old art form.
Label Pratham, born in 2011, emerged as the foremost textile and wearable art brand. At the start, over five years back, Pichwai sarees were unheard of, which earned the founders of the brand the eponymous name, "Pichwai Couple". Shweta and Prashant Garg have innovated a unique aesthetic of Pichwai, that is rooted in the original tradition while also employing contemporary metaphors. Today, Label Pratham has accumulated under its umbrella the credit of working with multifarious artisanal traditions and weaving clusters, each lending its unique texture and design history to the sublime art of Pichwai.
Label Pratham has travelled, through the history and repertoire of Pichwai art, its intricacies, visual nuances and technicalities of craft. For the longest time, this art form was relegated to Shreenathji's temple at Nathdwara, performing the spiritual and aesthetic function of providing a backdrop to His Swarup. In 2014, we undertook a creative and spiritual journey to Nathdwara that inspired us to expand this rich artistic tradition onto the sphere of textile and wearable art, in order to share with the world what we had discovered and experienced.