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Home >> Indian Painting Styles >> Phadas


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.

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