Phad — what the gods have to say

Alisha Shinde
Monday, 15 April 2019

Heart for Art Trust brings the folk art workshop to Pune where one can learn from the master artisans, Vivek and Vijay Joshi. Vivek tells us more about this singular style

Art lovers and patrons will agree that there is not a single state in the country that is not known for its particular style of folk art, dances or music. One such art form, with a strong lineage is Phad paintings of the Shahpura region of Rajasthan. It is said to be more than 700 years old and is used to tell a story. 

Phad, which means to read, is mostly based on songs of legendary Bhopa singers. 

We chat with Vivek Joshi, who, along with his brother Vijay, will be holding Phad workshops, in different neighbourhoods of the city. They have been invited by Heart for Art Trust. 

Vivek explains that Phad paintings tell the stories of deities of Rajasthan. “The priest-singers, who are known as Bhopas, traditionally carry these paintings along with them. They are mobile/travelling temples so that they can reach out to maximum number of people.” 

Phad is not your average painting canvas. “The painting can be as long as 20 to 30 feet in length and the canvas that is used is a hand-woven cloth. The canvases are made in traditional ways. The hand-woven cloth is soaked overnight so that the threads get thicker. Later, they are starched, burnished so that they become shiny and smooth for the painter to draw and paint a narrative on the canvas,” says the artist.

The figurines in the painting are a bit roundish and they all wear traditional attire and headgear.

 The art is also known for its vibrant colours that are used on the canvas. Vivek says, “The colours that are used in Phad painting are all made from vegetables, herbs and flowers as well as a few stones. The paints are mixed with gum and water before applying to the cloth. The coloured stone is ground together with natural gum for two-three weeks for a few hours everyday. So in a way, the painting is all organic and sustainable.”

Though Phad is a traditional art form, with changing times it was necessary to revive it. “Phad, until now, was only limited to the traditional folklore. We have got into the commercial sphere, wherein Phad paintings are used as decorative pieces in interior designs,” says Vivek, adding, “Making an art form commercial is literally the only way to get the art to more people, so that it becomes known nationally and internationally.” 

The artist mentions that he and his brother worked and gifted a Phad painting to actor Amitabh Bachchan, that depicted his life. “Recently, we even gifted a painting to Prime Minister Modi. He really appreciated it,” he adds.  

Vivek says that the nature of the workshop is such that the participants will be able to experience how it is to paint a phad. “Since it is an ancient art form and from our previous workshop experience, I can tell you that people, both young and old, are always excited to know about art and its nature.” 

At this workshop, the artist will introduce the basics of Phad-making, which will include preparation of natural colours. The participants will also learn to apply the art in the modern context. “Traditionally, Phad paintings depict an elaborate story with different sections or episodes. The smaller paintings which will be made during the workshop will depict just a single character or story,” he concludes. 

The three day workshop schedule
April 17-19
10 am - 1 pm: Ekattha - The Design Faktory, Aundh 
4 - 7pm: Kala Kollective, Swargate 

April 20
10 am - 1pm: Nukkad Café, Viman Nagar 
3-6 pm: Gyaan Adab, Kalyani Nagar 

April 21
10 am - 1 pm: Pagdandi Bookstore Café, Baner 
4 -7 pm: Karlo Art Kitchen &Cafe, Prabhat Road 

Register at Please mention preferred venue in the note when registering online

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