Indian temples have been centers of art and architecture since ancient times. Each temple according to geographic locations has their own art style, motifs, representation of deities and their stories. Clothes of the deities, their adornments and vibrant temple hangings have intensified the ambience of these temples. The main textile art that evolves from the temples are depicted in the temple hangings. These pieces of cloth are embroidered or painted with stories about the relevant God.
Although Gujarat is known for its exquisite embroidery, the lesser known art of Kalamkari is equally appealing and unique. Kalamkari refers to a method of painting natural dyes onto cotton or silk fabric with a bamboo pen or kalam. When one thinks of Kalamkari it is usually associated with the one that is done in the South of the country (Andhra Pradesh) predominately portraying a variety of Hindu narrative themes, including the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Shiva Purana. Kalamkari in Gujarat differs from that done in South with its central theme – the Mataji.
Mata Ni Pachedi, as we researched, was a sparsely known art practice by Vaghri community in Ahmedabad. This heightened our curiosity and as the opportunity came along we decided to pursue our quest in researching more about this beautiful this beautiful but obscure art form. Mata ni Pachedi represents the art history, creativity and cultural heritage of the Vaghri community now settled in Ahmadabad.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The Vaghri Harijans settled in Ahmadabad make their living by block printing and painting shrine cloth known as Mata ni Pachedi or Mata no Chandarvo. These imposing textiles are used as canopies over the image of the mother Goddess. Traditionally the shrine cloths were made by the Vaghri Harijan community who were not allowed to enter the temples. They made the Pachedis as an offering to the Goddesses.
The cloth has a formal patterned quality, strong and bold, reinforced by the starkness of red and black. Pachedis are used in religious ceremonies and record the myths and legends associated with the living traditions of the people.
Always, the goddess is the destroyer of evil with weapons in all her ten arms looking fierce and commanding, invoking awe and fear in the onlooker. She is at the center, the focus of the painting with motifs of deities, priests, devotees, angels and animals drawn around her. Often they are performing garba, a traditional dance in the honor of the mother goddess. These are narratives from epics arranged in columns around her. The themes, stories, dimensions and proportions of the motifs are interpreted differently according to the artist’s sensibility and visualization. Many legends are depicted in these Pachedis. They are usually derived from Puranic myths. What remains constant is the Mataji, who according to the Vaghri tribes, protects and helps people.
Traditionally maroon and black were the colors used, with the surface of the material as the third color. The maroon and black colors were natural dyes sourced from alizarin and oxidized metal. To meet contemporary tastes, the Vaghris have started using other natural colours adding yellow, blue orange, rust, grey and even pink to the colour palette.
Contrasts between positive and negative spaces formed an important balancer to the work. The maroon and black colors were natural dyes sourced from alizarin and oxidized metal Maroon was associated with the color of the Earth mother or Gaea and believed to possess healing powers. White was considered the color for purity and contact with ancestral spirits, deities and other unknown spiritual entities. The color black was meant to repel malevolent spirits and intensify spiritual energy.
As time went by the community got introduced to pigment dyes which had begun arriving in Gujarat for a fledging textile industry. Exposure to a. wider palette meant a riot of color and shade in the Pachedi. These are however not used for religious purposes and are purely decorative.
The most common motifs, apart from Mataji astride a bull or a tiger, include lady with a flower, trumpeters, angels, flowers, the tree of life and animals such as peacock, tiger, parrot etc.
All the materials used in the creation of Mata ni Pachedi are organic. The dyes, the fabrics (such as cotton, khadi, silk etc), the bamboo stick kalams are all made up of naturally available products. Extremely eco-friendly in its nature, Mata ni Pachedi reinforces the use of non-polluting, wholesome materials which do not compromise in making outstanding aesthetic pieces.
Our teacher and mentor Mr. Sanjay Manubhai Chitara lives in Jivraj Park, Ahmadabad. The main and only occupation of him and his family is making the pachedis. The government has recognized the art and given due to the artisans for their skill and mastery by awarding them both state level and national level awards. Sanjaybhai realizes the importance of marketing and selling the craft. He tries to travel as much as possible to create awareness and introduce his art to a wider audience.
CREATIVE USAGE OF MATA NI PACHEDI
Mata ni Pachedi is a textile art so the most obvious ways in which it can be displayed are wall hangings, bed sheets and table linen. But these require big pieces and therefore it becomes too expensive for the consumer to buy.
Our main aim was to dilute the immense cost of creating the art piece so that quantity could be achieved at a shorter span of time. And also making interesting ready to use products that would excite customers from all age groups; such as shoes, pocket patches, buttons etc for youngsters, religious book stands for elders. Bags, belts, playing cards, vanity boxes and diary covers are other options.
In order to keep the authenticity of the art alive and yet make it look contemporary, motifs remained the same but different mediums were tried out. Due to religious beliefs, motifs of Mataji cannot be used on articles such as shoes and pocket patches but animals and flowers can be used generously.
The common trait that binds all dying arts is that the new generation lacks the patience to invest time and effort in an art that is an unpredictable form of income relying on the patronage of a few who have the knowledge and deep pockets to pay for the masterpieces.
Every aspect of the Pachedi evokes awe, trance and even fear. All in all, Mata ni Pachedi is an exquisite form of art whose splendor can not be ignored.
Some products that we made with the help of Sanjaybhai: