India has a repertoire of innumerable story telling methods since ages. One such myriad pictorial depiction in the mystic land of India is the Phad Painting. This folk art of Rajasthan can be traced back to thousands of years. Traditionally, these paintings were an extensive part of religious songs and traditional customs.
These paintings tell the tales of balladeers – locally known as Bhopas and Bhopis that traverse from one hamlet to other performing folk epics. The paintings used to be the star attraction for the villagers as their only source of entertainment. The narratives of mythical characters formed a mystic and magical ambience for the audience.
Initially the story tellers unfolded a new chapter every night. That’s why these paintings are called Phad painting, which means fold in a colloquial language. The sessions used to start only after sunset. The overnight performances attracted a lot of localities as well as people from the neighbouring villages. These paintings are usually painted on fabrics or wall and mostly described the heroic deeds of Pabuji –a folk deity worshipped in the localities of Rajasthan. Thus this painting is often called Pabuji Ka Phad. Tales of Dev Narayan Ji were also narrated in a series of dramatic storytelling method with alluring figurines and mythological music as the backdrop.
Phad painting constitutes of several unique characteristics that makes it more alluring than other forms of painting. One such distinctive trait is that every visible inch of the canvas is congested with figures. The second unique trait is, the flat construction of the entire painted space. Amidst the painting, figures are harmoniously spread all over the space. The size of the figure depends on the social strata of the person’s character they represent and the roles they play in the narrated tale.
Another interesting stuff about this painting is the characters are always sitting or standing face to face as if engaged in a conversation. Unlike other paintings, here the painted figures don’t face the audience. Traditionally these paintings are of variegated painted scrolls and are wide to accommodate the innumerable series of the complicated and untold religious tales. The unique beauty of these paintings has won the praises of art enthusiasts in every nook and corner of the nation as well as around the world.
Even to this day, Phad Painting has earned an array of accolades as one of the most popular mythological folk paintings in the world of art and culture. Phad painting is still prevalent in some villages across Rajasthan. A contemporary version of this painting has been depiction of the phad stories through animation.