Nathdwara Painting refers to a painting tradition and school of artists that emerged in Nathdwara, a town in Rajsamand district in the Western state of Rajasthan in India. Nathdwara paintings are of different sub-styles of which Pichhwai paintings are the most popular. The word Pichwai derives from the Sanskrit words pich meaning back and wais meaning hanging. These paintings are cloth paintings hung behind the image of the Hindu god Shrinathji.
Origin and area
The Nathdwara school is a subset of the Mewar school of painting and is seen as an important school in the 17th and 18th century miniature paintings. The sub-styles of Mewar painting include Udaigarh, Devgarh and Nathdwara as important centers of miniature production. The temple of Shrinathji is believed to have provided a boost to the art activities in the town. It is recorded that to avoid the oppression of the iconoclast Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the image of Shrinathji, a child manifestation of Krishna was installed in Nathdwara in 1670 by Goswami priests from Mathura. After this, many artists, including the famous Acharya Gopinathji, motivated by religious fervor came and created paintings of Srinathji.
Most works produced in this style revolve around the figure of Shrinathji as a manifestation of Krishna and refer to the incident of him holding the Govardhan hill on his last finger. Each pichwai painting is considered a seva or an offering to the deity and hence personifies Shrinathji as a prince with jewels and luxuries, surrounded by the milkmaids, gopis. These seva themes are based on different seasons and paintings are made to depict different moods of the season. There are also paintings that show the Lord in different costumes celebrating different festivals. Other themes like Mata Yashoda, Nandlal and Balgopal figures are also painted in this style. Some of the paintings are gem-encrusted.
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