Phadas belong to the rich tradition of paintings of
western India. Phada, a folk painting can simply be
described as a large painting on cloth, which commemorates
the deeds of a hero. The smaller version of phada is
known as phadakye.The provenance of this cloth painting is not clear,
as it is customary to destroy old phadas by submerging
them into the river at Pushkar in Rajasthan. Therefore
the specimens, left from the past do not date back to
a very old period.
They mostly belong to the late 19th century or early 20th century.
As it was an oral tradition, literary evidence is also
absent. However, the tradition of using painted hangings
to illustrate a story was common in India since olden
times. There are texts and compositions, which refer
to the presence of such a practice.
Generally, the life events of Goga Chauhan, Prithaviraj
Chauhan, Amar Singh Rathor, Tejaji, and many others
were illustrated on the Phadas in the earlier times
but today the stories from the life of Papuji, and Narayandevji
are primarily depicted. While, phadakye display the
stories of Ram Krishnadala, Bhainsasura, and Ramdev.
The heroes shown in the Phadas are those, which have
attained divine status thus immense reverence, and honor
is accorded to them.
Phadas are painted by the chhipa caste also known as
Joshis. These paintings are considered sacrosanct, and
are begun only after certain ceremonies. It is interesting
to note that Phadas are not worked on during the monsoon
season, as it is believed that folk hero deities are
asleep during this period.
A coarse, white cloth is starched and smoothened with
a wooden burnisher. Chhipa then draws the initial sketch
(chakna dena) with a non-permanent yellow color. After
that, the faces and the figures are painted with a saffron
color (munda banana). It is followed by the application
of colors in the following sequence-green, brown, vermilion,
sky blue, and finally black is used for outlining the
figures. Traditionally, colors derived from vegetables
and minerals are used but today even synthetic colors
have also become popular. The brushes used by him are
prepared from the hair of the squirrel tail or goat. The artist refrains painting the eyes of the main character till the time he does not hand over the cloth painting
to the bhopa (a person from the bhopa caste who specializes
in singing different tales).
At this time he adds the name of the bhopa and the date on the painting.
The bhopa chants the stories of phadas at night. He
usually performs in the company in the company of two-three
bhopas. They sing, dance to the accompaniment of the
instruments like jantara, majira, chinpia, etc as one
illuminates the related section of the hanging. There
are very rare cases when the phadas are performed without
the instrument. Sometimes, the phadas are also regarded
as object of worship.
Phadas are pictorial representation of stories that
sometimes appear to overlap. The central portion depicts
the main story while the puranic tales are illustrated
on the border areas.
Today, phadas have become an important item in the
commercial market for their unique appeal.