Object of the week: Pilgrims to Nathdwara take these paintings home

Part of the Spotlight feature Open Roads

Object of the week: Pilgrims to Nathdwara take these paintings home - Arts of India, featured, Hinduism, Lord Krishna, Nathdwara, Object of the week, Open Roads, Pichwai, pilgrim art, Rajasthan, souvenir, textile painting, Travel

Aankoot Saat Swaroop Pichwai, gouache on cotton cloth © Sarmaya Arts Foundation 2018.14.13

Pichwai paintings are naturally festive, depicting celebrations for Janmashtami, Sharad Purnima and Holi. They mark special occasions in the life of a young Lord Krishna, who is worshipped in the town of Nathdwara, Rajasthan as Shrinathji. In these textile paintings, we will typically see the eight-year-old Shrinathji frolicking in the gardens of Vrindavan as well as performing miracles according to the legends of the Bhagavata Purana (c. 10th Century).

Pichwais evolved as sacred souvenirs for pilgrims to carry back from their visit to the temple town of Nathdwara. Since festivals are an occasion for these pilgrimages, the paintings too carry special themes. This painting from the Sarmaya collection marks Govardhan Puja aka Annakuta Puja.

Aankoot Sath Swaroop depicts one of the forms of Shrinathji, who is the presiding deity of the Pushtimarg Vaishnava sect established by the 15th-century saint, Vallabhacharya. The Aankoot or Annakuta Puja is celebrated in the Hindu month of Karthika and it depicts Shrinathji with his left hand raised upwards, symbolising the lifting of Mount Govardhan. This follows from a legend about the young Lord Krishna lifting the mountain over his head to protect his flock from a catastrophic flood. The mountain is sometimes represented as a mound of rice, or ‘anna kuta’ in Sanskrit. You can see it here in the very centre of the painting.

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