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This article refers from A BOOK "SHRINATH JI".

Hinduism and Paintings

Hinduism is the oldest living religion and the third largest in the world. Hindus worship God beyond form,
Brahman. Hindus love to express the infinite qualities of Brahman. Hindus paint God’s pictures in coutless human forms . It is believed that God takes incarnation as a human avtar whenever there is righteous yearn for Him. Hinduism is a concept which can not be understood through our sense organs. It is beyond these. In Hinduism several symbols, images, idols, paintings are used to reveal the nature of universe.
The Art form was/ and is the unique gift/ idea to make ordinary people understand the concept of God and its existence without learning any written language.
“One picture/painting/image is the description of thousand words.”
Hindus discovered many art forms as a tool to invoke spirituality. Paintings called “Chitrakala” and image is also the source / media of worship in Hindiism. The concept of art is described in “Shilpa Shastra” text which states that the word form is reflected in painting just as moon is reflected in water on full moon night. The paintings followed by many themes including mythology, love, religion, spirituality are divided into four categories. Wall Paintings, Cloth Paintings, Manuscript paintings, Miniature Paintings.
The unique relationship of Art and Hinduism is defined in all aspects of Hindu life through prayers, Deities, temples, festivals etc. The enjoyment of art of nature which is the signature of God. In this book we shall get familiar with the ancient art of miniature painting called “Pichwai”.
 

Pichwai

The word Pichwai derives from the Sanskrit word “Pich” means Back and “wais” means hanging. Pichwai paintings are the big sized paintings on cotton cloth(Sometimes on different types of clothes are used) used to describe the life events of the lord in the temples, behind the idol. These paintings are the result of utmost devotion and dedication of the painters. Pichwai paintings are having religious importance in Vallabhacharaya Sect. The central theme of these paintings is “ShriNath Ji” and his Leelas.
 
These came into light when the Sect Vallabhacharya fashioned 24 iconographic for Krishna’s image backdrops at Nathdwara (A small town in Rajasthan, India). Every Pichwai painting is connected with a specific festival. Every image of this work has connection to a specific celebration of the festival. It is during the period (1700B.C to 1800B.C) that the ‘Pichwai’ tradition developed.The Vallabhkul-Acharayas patronized various painters who painted Pichwais of various utsavs like Annakuta, Janamashtami, Holi, etc. As the riches of Nathdwara increased, Pichwais were getting painted on precious clothes with liquid gold and silver being used as ink.
 
The Pichwais are created in many ways and by various techniques like painted, printed, woven and sometime embroider too. The Pushtimarg shrines use Pichwais usually are the biggest (3.0x1.8) meter. The portion which comes just behind the icon left either blank or is cut. Pichwais of all shrines can be seen from a distance.
 
The miniature methods are done on the large sized cloths to paint Nathdwara’s world famous pichwais. Colourful borders to all the four sides attached on a heavy cotton based cloth. Sometimes these are painted on silk as well. Original gold and silver being used in these paintings. These paintings represent hand-painted scenes of well known Leelas or pastimes of Hindu God Lord Krishna. Some artists create pichwais by dyeing the cloth too with local earthen colors and or print, others use embroidery with various knots and specific kind of stitches and material like mirrors, pearls or gems. ‘Pichwais’ paintings explain the scenes of Leelas from Lord Krishna’s life. These are wonderful and made with lots of love and devotion. One can find the dark blue Krishna standing on a lotus flower and his flute beckons all. His flute beckons cows too. He usually can be seen in golden yellow robes but Lord Krishna may be seen in various garments too.
 

Pushtimarg

Shri Vallabhacharya is the founder of Pushtimarg. “Pushtimarg” is a 500 year old sect of Hindu Religion. Pushtimarg means “The Path of Grace”. It is a Hindi Vaishnav tradition focused on the worship of Lord Krishna.Non-dualism is the philosophy of pushtimarg introduced by Vallabhacharya. Eight poets of this sector wrote poetry in praise of Lord Krishna. These poets describe Lord Krishna’s Leelas in their poetry. They are known as Ashtachap Kavis. Their compositions are central to the worship by the followers of Vallabhacharya sect. Pushtimarg says that highest goal of life is not Moksha (liberation) only, but life’s goal is to serve Krishna, to spend life in the service of Lord Krishna. Vallabhacharya sect originated in Vraja (Vrindavan) but now the most of followers are in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Lord Krishna is treated as a child in this sect therefore, Lord Krishna is served like a child. There are eight darshanas of Krishna. The ashtachap poets have written compositions are lyrical and rhythmic descriptions of Lord Krishna’s Leelas as a child. As per Vallabhacharya’s theology the glorious Lord Krishna is the absolute (Swayam Bhagwan) as said in Bhagvad Geeta. Lord Krishna is permanently playing out his Leelas. Vallabhacharya’s followers believe that bhakti is the only path to obtain the bliss of Krishna. Vallabhacharya’s followers recommend pushti bhakti. It is the illustration of oneness with Lord Krishna.


It is that bhakti (Devotion) which gives itself up body, heart and soul to the cause of God. In this tradition the devotee is not doing anything for the sake of any reward or favor from God but for his own sake. It is said that such a devotee goes to Golaka and enjoy the bliss, the eternal bliss.

Vallabhacharya sect temples adorn the temples or haveli’s in their own different ways. Hanging of large wall size paintings is the most attractive feature of the sect. these paintings depict Lord Krishna’s Leelas as a child. This sect is also the founder of such paintings called “Pichwais”. In no other sect we see such paintings in the temples.

According to Bhagvad Purana, “Idulgence of God is pushti”. In pushtimarg Shrinath Ji is the principle diety. Millions of devotee visit Nathdwara for the darshanas. Shrinath Ji is the desire, the festival of heart, his presence fulfill the world with knowledge and joy. Shrinath Ji is the mixture of spiritual and material world. With the blessings of Shrinath Ji we obtain happiness and joy. “Pushti Margah Poshnam Tadnugrah” Pushtimarg is the way to get indulgence of Lord Krishna.

Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum

Shri Vallabha’s first disciple was Damodardas and explains the PushtiBhakti’s feaures to him. Some of
the features are here given below:

  • It is spontaneous, selfless & motiveless love for God
  • It is based on pure love for God.
  • It is expressed only through service of God.
  • It is love after realising God’s true nature.
  • The knowledge gained is not a means of liberation.
  • Liberation, is considered secondary to the enjoyment of God’s bliss.
  • Its aim is God’s happiness.
  • It does not know any boundaries, be it time, place or anything else.
  • It does not require a devotee to give up a householder’s life. In fact, one can serve Him better, by being a householder.

All the worldly desires are diverted towards God, they are then not required to be suppressed. World is not looked down upon but is treated as God’s creation and thus as real as God himself. Shri Krishna is the supreme God; all the other deities reside in his form. Therefore total faith
is placed in Shri Krishna alone.

ShriNath Ji

ShriNath Ji is the principle diety in Pushti Marga and thousands of pilgrims visit Him everyday in His temple in Nathdwara Rajasthan. His magnetism is so strong that devotees experience bliss there. He is the librator of all kind of souls. ShriNath Ji is the deity form of Lord Krishna. Krishna is a beloved incarnation/avatar of Lord Vishnu. ShriNath Ji, a representation of Lord Krishna .It is written in Shri Garg Samhinta that Lord Krishna would
appear as ShriNath Ji in a five feet stone image from the depths of Goverdhana hill. He came to life on Goverdhan hill for His special devotees. This sacred Goverdhan hill is located at a distance of 14 miles from Mathura. ShriNath Ji is the form of bliss manifestation. He is the perfect combination of Vedant and poetry, of insight and dance, of form and formlessness, of world and heaven. ShriNath Ji is the desire, the festival of hearts. His presence charges the world with a sacredness and holy enlightenment. ShriNath Ji is a child a young lad who has his own home/haveli where he resides. The spiritual and the material as well both the worlds are joyful unworded approach to ShriNath Ji. Purity in love and devotion toward God can bring someone
exceedingly close to Him. Only with purity in heart one can feel his unconditional love. The lovers of Krishna worship him with joy, delight and fine art.
Music, especially delicate flute notes, poetry, fine painting, dance and drama are all the righteous ways to please God for religious as well as spiritual happiness.. The wonderful pichwai paintings are made to offer the best that man can offer god. Pichwai paintings are created for depicting life time events of Lord Krishna in his form as ShriNath Ji. ShriNath Ji is can be seen in rich drapped dresses and adoened with pure gold and
rare gems. His eyes are special: they look like petals of Lotus flower. Eyes are deliberately shown half-closed, looking down, deep in meditation. His body is painted dark blue, which is the colour of vastness and depth of the character, while he is clothed in yellow and gold, the colours belong to our earth. In this way it is shown that the lord of all space and infinity is coming down to earth in human form. He wears pearls,rare gems, flowers and silk clothes, cotton clothes in summer. There are cows, birds look at him adoringly while peacocks dance near him. It is said by Garag muni in Brahm Samhinta that the one who bows towards Shrinath Ji would be blessed with the fruit of the pilgrim of four Nath’s blessings. The four Naths are there in the four corners or directions in India (i) JagganNath (ii) ShriNath (iii) Shri DwarikaNath (iv) Shri BadriNath.Today ShriNath Ji lives in Nathdwara near to Udaipur in Rajasthan. ShriNath Ji’s haveli is the heart of the town. The town is totally surrounded around the haveli. It is not an ordinary temple or haveli or place of
worship. God himself resides here in the most live form. ShriNath Ji is there for granting us the highest joy and bliss only if we can put aside the mind and join him in total bhao shudhi (complete and pure devotion). 17th Century’s ShriNath Ji temple or haveli is one of the richest temples in India. Millions of rupees and a big amount of gold, diamonds, jewels are offered to the Lord daily.

Nathdwara

“Nathdwara” is the combination of two words Nath and Dwara which means Gateway of God; the present version of the three hundred years old Sinhad. Nathdwara is the place of Lord ShriNath Ji where he lives in his most lively form. It is a pilgrimage for Pushtimargiya followers. Goverdhandhari is the form of lord Krishna which is being worshipped here. It is situated 48 Km from Udaipur in the Rajasmand district on the bank of Banas river. It is famous for the
temple of Krishna which houses the idol of ShriNath Ji, a 14th century 7 year old infant incarnation of Krishna. Nathdwara is a significant Vashnavite Shrine pertaining to the Pushtimarga or Vallabh Sampardaya. Nathdwara town itself is popularly reffered to as “ShriNath Ji” after presiding deity.
Nathdwara is rich in art and culture. It has been known for its traditional paintings and other art forms.Paintig is the main source of living of hundreds of artists here. Almost each home is a studio of art here.The artists make a close community and interact freely. Nathdwara is the heart of Pichwai paintings.The world famous Pichwai paintings are painted here. Nathdwara style of Pichwai is a distinct form because of portrayal of the artist’s love and affection for God. Art takes the center stage and is a vital element of ritualistic darshan of ShriNath Ji. Pichwai is a large cloth painting serves as a backdrop to the idol and is intricate enough to narrate the various Leelas (Pastimes) of Lord Krishna as ShriNath Ji. Pichwai is the part of devotional expression. Pichwais are the auspicious contribution of Nathdwara to Indian Art History.