Indian Religious Textile Paintings


In history of India amalgamation of arts and textiles has been formatting excellent examples of creativity and ingenuity over several centuries. The Indian artist explored different mediums to express his imagination and articulated them through myriad textile traditions. Spread across the country one gets to witness the diversity of textile art traditions which narrate the m√©lange of cultural beliefs, traditional ethos, myths and epics and eclectic depiction of life. Diverse techniques of painting and printing, weaving and embroidery have been over centuries been used to create the assorted range of religious traditional textile arts of India.

King Rama's consecration as king. Image Credit: British Library
Religious Narrative Textile Paintings portray reminiscence of Indian material culture and the socio religious customs and beliefs. They augment the verbal and oral literary traditions that trace down the chronicles of rich cultural patrimony of the country. In India, Narratives represented as oral traditions, songs, rituals, objects and performing arts are customarily recognized and explored. However narrative textiles of India are often relegated to the realms of decorative material culture. Nonetheless, these textiles have evolved with the development of civilization and often represent social, religious and ritual values and convey sagas and anecdotes of our origin and legends of our ancestors and gods.  

On one hand where the miniature and mural artists have illustrated Indian textiles in their paintings, traditional textile artists explored their inspiration by painting them on fabrics. Indian history documents varied hand painted textiles which served more than the purpose of being used as a garment or piece to decorate the interior.
Kalamkari depicting the Avataras , South India, Image Credit: Columbia.edu

Religion and cultural belief play a major role in Indian art history. Art has been patronized in India in different periods for preaching and popularizing religious beliefs and cultural norms. The religious textiles from India demonstrate the extensive use of the country textiles in places of worship as decorative hangings and for creating and mounting devotional icons. The temple hangings of India came into existence to serve this purpose and expression. Paintings with religious themes or iconographic depiction of gods and goddesses were executed on textiles for preaching or narrating various aspects and sects of religious values. These temple hangings intensified the affluent ambiance of temples with their vibrant colors and dynamic figuration as well as narrated the diverse ethics of the religion. 

Pichhwai of Shrinathji, Image Credit: Tapi Collection
Distinctive temple hangings were painted in different regions of the country; the major regions being Southern India, Gujarat, Orissa and Rajasthan. In other parts of the country, a similar form of folk art was formatted but most of it was done on palm leaf or paper. 

Kalamkari from Southern India, Pichhavai from Rajasthan, Pata-Chitra from Orissa and Mata-ni-Pachedi from Gujarat are textile paintings serving religious purpose in the country.



Composition themes of these hangings can be divided into two basic categories. Most of these hangings were painted with a narrative representation of tales of gods and goddesses or their rituals. These were meant to convey a message of belief to the devotees and narrate stories related to the gods and goddesses. In quite a number of places, singers recited the narration depicted in the paintings. Dancers are even known for performing in front of these narrative art forms, according to the depiction. Pichhwais of Shrinathji and Kalamkari of Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh are some of the more prevalent examples of this style. 

In the other category of religious textile arts one gets to see, the hangings painted with iconographic representation of gods and goddesses. These were meant predominantly for veneration and often acted as temporary shrines in certain areas. Mata ni Pachedi of Gujarat is one such art form which was created for the purpose of serving as a mobile shrine for a nomadic community in Gujarat.

Mata-Ni-Pachedi, Gujarat, Image Credit: Bishakha Shome
  In their contemporary form, some of these textiles traditions have evolved from being significantly created for religious purpose to objects of decoration. In various areas of the country the narrative aspect the traditions have also been adapted for depicting social causes. 



2 comments:

mamta said...

hello
this is mamta... was reading your blog.. have been working as a craft researcher myself,, though not so religiously,,
but a question come to my mind:
does this craft technique have links with seashore, in terms of conception and production..like the teliya rumal?

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