Traditional Mata-ni-Pachedi

Shrine with the Pachedi used as a rear hanging

Mata or Mother Goddess as the central image

Traditionally this work of art always had an architectural rendering of a temple at its center which also housed the main mother goddess image.Around this were panels of incidents linked to the myth of the central deity as well as scenes from daily life. Conventionally the rectangular fabric was divided into seven to nine columns evoking the loss of a manuscript format. It also made it easier to interpret and impart the stories within the piece. In a lower caste, community, which also was barred from entering a built shrine or possessing their own literary collection this, was an ingenious solution. Incidences illustrated on the columns were stories by themselves each block a protomyth. While earlier imagery always depicted the goddess in the center, modern renditions enjoy a larger degree of artistic freedom. The central image and surrounding images may vary in size and position, depending on the artist’s personal creative imagination. A chandarvo being a ceiling the painted pattern is a representative of the magic circle, the garbha, the ceremonial dance to the goddess, in effect a stylized mirror image. The mother goddess occupies a central position with myths and incidents in circular patterns around the central figure.

Both the Pachedi and the Chandarvo are always framed with a bold border, which is divided into a line of single color and a band of decorative linear patterns.Traditionally maroon and black were the colors used, with the surface of the material as the third color. Black not only was used as a color but also as the outer linings of the icons and the motifs. Filling in the motifs were sometimes replaced by linear work and pointillist imagery. Contrasts between positive and negative spaces formed an important balancer to the work. The maroon and black colors were natural dyes sourced from alizarin and oxidized metal. Maroon was associated with the color of the Earth mother or Gaea and believed to possess healing powers. The color black was meant to repel malevolent spirits and intensify spiritual energy. White was considered the color for purity and contact with ancestral spirits, deities and other unknown spiritual entities. Gradually other colors from nature started adding to the color palette without having any religious significance. As time went by the community got introduced to pigment dyes which had begun arriving in Gujarat for a fledging textile industry. Exposure to a wider palette meant a riot of color and shade in the pachedi. Other iconary imagery such as posters, prints, calendars etc also affected this work of art.

Unfortunately, unlike other temple hangings or block printed textiles of the country, Mata-ni-Pachedi never obtained much of a significant position in the history of Indian textiles. With time it is loosing its sacred significance in the religious context of Gujarat, due to other mediums like posters and idols of gods and goddesses. Besides the transition of preference of mediums, nature also is playing a major role in the loosing significance of the craft. The now settled artisans who have been dyeing the hangings in natural colors are facing the scarcity of flowing water in an urban landscape which plays a major role in the process of dyeing. With the descending interest of society in the depiction of narrative epics through temple hangings, the craft is resuming significance as a piece of textile craft. However, due to the crude execution of the rural artisans the craft is unable to attain its status amongst the finely executed textiles of India.
Detail of a Pachedi border
Space surrounding the central image
divided into 7-9 panels
Mata-Ni-Pachedi, The Kalamkari of Gujarat

Mother Goddess in one of her incarnations enshrined within a two dimensional rendering of a temple

The temple hangings from Gujarat are locally known as the Mata-ni-Pachedi. The historical evidence of this craft goes back almost two hundred years. Some rural and nomadic people of Gujarat make these hangings for their rituals. The term Mata-ni-Pachedi came from the Gujarati words, Mata,’ goddess’ ni, ‘belongs to’, Pachedi,’ which literally meant behind in Gujarati. In Gujarat, the narrative hangings of epics of Mata or Devi or Shakti were executed by the nomadic community of Waghari and were used by the people of this community.

The unique feature of these temple hangings was that instead of being hung behind an icon, four to five pieces of these hangings were used to form a shrine for the goddess. These hangings used by the nomadic tribe served the purpose of depicting the epics of the mother goddess as well as forming a temporary shrine for her. With the ethnographic settlement of the communities the shrine hangings, served the purpose of narrative pieces of art like other temple hangings of the country. While the chitaras were the artists who painted the shrine hangings, the bhuvo or bhuva used to be the priest to perform the rituals and jagorais were the singers who interpreted the pachedis.

Traditional Mata-ni-Pachedi

Communities of Waghris gradually settled on the outskirts of towns/villages as they shifted from a semi nomadic stage to a fixed state. A Mata-ni-Pachedi for the nomadic Vagharis served the purpose of a portable shrine which today in a settled community who have not completely relinquished their original style of worship serves as a rear wall to the main shrine. A pachedi is always a rectangular piece of fabric as opposed to a Chandarvo which is a canopy serving in place of a ceiling in the nomadic shrine.