Raas Leela is the divine dance that Krishna performed with the Gopis (cow herding girls) of Braj. The dance symbolises the divine union and the spiritual love between Krishna and his devotees. The Raas Leela is said to have taken place on the first full-moon night (Purnima) after the monsoon, which marks the onset of autumn. Pichwais that depict the Raas Leela typically show Krishna dancing with the Gopikas in a circle.
The word Pichwai has its roots in Sanskrit: pich or ‘behind’, vai or ‘textile hanging.’ Pichwai (pichvai) is a style of painting that originated over 400 years ago, in the town of Nathdwara near Udaipur in Rajasthan, India. Intricate and visually stunning, pichwai paintings, made on cloth, depict tales from Lord Krishna's life. Other common subjects found in pichwai paintings are Radha, gopis, cows and lotuses.
With its roots in the miniature painting tradition, the pichwai painting style emerged in the 17th century, exemplified by artists in Nathdwara (located north of Udaipur). Pichwai refers to the temple hanging that depicts mythological stories of Nathdwara’s resident deity, Shrinathji, a manifestation of Krishna.Other common subjects found in pichwai paintings are Radha, gopis, cows and lotuses. Festivals and celebrations such as Sharad Purnima, Raas Leela, Annakoot or Govardhan Puja, Janmashtami, Gopashtami, Nand Mahotsav, Diwali and Holi are frequently depicted in Pichwais.
The painting is traditionally made on a specially starched cloth, with colours derived from stones and minerals, and also gold, which gives a pichwai its rich look. The colours are natural stone pigments got by crushing and grinding the stones, filtering, and getting the essence of the colour, all of which artists do on their own. Not only is the textile held sacred, but the process of creating it is a form of devotion for the Nathdwara chitrakars. The popularity of the elegant style is defined by its unique colour palette and fine details.
The motive behind the making of these paintings is the joy and happiness that spread over Vrindavan during the time of Lord Krishna. The artists are the devotees of Shrinathji who were happy to make these paintings. The pictures show love and happiness as symbolised by dancing to the tunes of the flute.
The best part about these paintings is they there are no rigid rules on hanging them on the wall. Besides adorning the backdrop of the walls of the temple, these paintings do not carry any religious beliefs. Over the years, artists have started making comparatively smaller versions of the pictures than the larger ones. And now these newly created versions can be bought by art lovers as home décor or for an art museum. This beautiful journey from temples to homes shows the love of people for Indian art, history and culture.
The painting is done by Arun Sharma, the Pichwai Artist from Udaipur, Rajashthan.