Rajasthan is at the heart of India. It is commercially and aesthetically valued for its cultural heritage. Its out-and-out immersion in history, folklore and traditions are made global by those who have been blessed to be born in such a family setting. ‘Phad Painting’ is one such art form that is thoroughly preserved and upskilled by the Joshi’s of Shahpura in Bhilwara district.
Phad means narrating, reading out or singing a musical rendition from such paintings. The Bhopa and Bhopi community of nomads wandered from one place to another singing such tales to villagers. These paintings were unrolled and performed as a narration by the Bhopas and Bhopis in front of the locals as a source of income for the former and as a source of entertainment for the latter.
The long history of Phad Paintings has been limited and accessible only to the Joshi family. Vijay terms this as a ‘generation art’. With a family scale of 22 members, each of them are practitioners as well as connoisseurs of their intra-generational art form.
Shanti Lal Joshi, father of Vijay Joshi has been a National Award winner in 1991. Now, Vijay Joshi has whole-heartedly undertaken the task of establishing the existence of Phad Paintings throughout the world.
Vijay, the 13th generation practitioner, entered the Shahpura School at the age of 9 where phad painting was taught. This is when he came to terms with his age old family business. He revealed that he found solace in this art form, as if he was specifically chosen to be part of the Joshi family by God. Later, he explained to us the significance of Phad Paintings: these paintings will travel with you as a running temple because they constitute every symbol, every motif that exists in a Lord Ganesha or Lord Vishnu temple. These are narratives which were, in the past, carried by priest-singers of the Rabari tribe who performed stories of their local deities from epics, namely Devnarayan (painting available in size 5/36) and Pabuji (painting available in size 5/18). Devnarayan ji was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and Pabuji was an incarnation of Lord Lakshman.
He believes his paintings offer a thanks to the deities and hence, his modus operandi revolves around the naturalness of it. A thick homemade parchment type cloth is made as a base for the phad painting which prolongs its durability. Colors, too, are made naturally out of stones by crushing them. The process isn’t painless, rather it is time consuming. It takes up to three months to make the colour schemes. To add to the toil, you can clearly imagine how much time it would take to make one Phad Painting! He states,
« When an artist is involved in his work, he forgets everything and it becomes priceless. »
An interesting part of the conversation revealed that Phad culture was highly uncommunicative and reserved in nature. He mentioned that these Paintings were a clandestine activity in front of the females of their household who were destined to be married off to another family. Their concern was if such an art form surfaced outside the periphery of their family, it would hinder the age old legacy. But the bahus who were married into the family were weaved into the family through Phad Painting lessons. The denouement of patriarchal and backward practices sooner or later perished for good. In the present day scenario, Joshi family have opened their arms by discarding this adage and are unreservedly telling, re-telling and communicating their experiences to every woman of their house. Not just this but Vijay is internationalising the impact of Phad paintings. He offers workshops to students in and around india. He has institutionalised the existence of the internet for giving workshops online. In December 2019, Vijay exhibited his artworks at the Mexico Museum.
Recently, he diligently modernised the traditional Phad Paintings considering the global pandemic. His CoronaVirus Awareness Phad Painting caught the attention of the public and also brought to vanguard the capabilities of an artist of modern India. In his painting named ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’, he drew the characters and motifs in light of the present circumstances. To name a few activities being undertaken in the painting are the practice of yoga, social distancing and habituating the people with adorning masks as an everyday accessory. The modern journey didn’t stop there: they have introduced phad painted masks too!
Vijay mentioned that his art work will surface the internet community in October, most probably on his website. The subjects of his paintings will be mythology, history, collages, line work amongst others. Moreover, he customises his paintings. You can appreciate his work by connecting with him over a call on 09414677750 or visit the link below. You can also connect with him over instagram; his instagram handle is @vijaijosi