Phad painting is approximately 700 years old and it originated in Shahpura, a princely state, 35 kms from the district of Bhilwara in Rajasthan. The main theme of these paintings is the depiction of local deities and their stories, and legends of erstwhile local rulers. These paintings are created using bright and subtle colours. Phad is a type of scroll painting that depicts exploits of local deities.
Phad painting is a style of scroll painting and folk painting. Phad paintings are usually done on a long piece of cloth or canvas, known as phad. Phad painting of Rajasthan mostly depicts the stories of the folk deities of Rajasthan, Pabuji and Devnarayan. They are legendary Rajasthani heroes, who are worshipped as incarnations of Vishnu and Laxman. The priest singers traditionally carry these painted phads with them. The phads of Pabuji are usually 15 feet long. Phads of Devnarayan are 30 feet long. The colors used for painting these phads are traditionally made from vegetable colors. These colors remain fresh for long periods of time. With the scarcity of these colors, artists are now using earthen colors with gum, water and indigo.
Phad painting history dates back to about 700 years ago and phad paintings flourished for generations because of the royal patronage given to them. The Joshi families of Bhilwara are known as the traditional artists of phad painting. They have been making this style of painting for the last 2 centuries.
The commencement of this painting accompanies much celebration. First, phad painting designs are made on the khadi cloth and the empty spaces are covered with flora and fauna. Initially all the figures are colored yellow. Then the first stroke is made by the youngest virgin girl of the family or of a higher caste. Only one color is used at a time, filling it in wherever required. Orange color is used for limbs and torso, while yellow is used for ornaments, clothing and designs, grey for structure, green for trees and vegetation, blue for water and curtains and red for dress.
One of the interesting features of this painting is that the figures in these paintings do not face the audience; instead, they face each other. The scale of these figures depends on the social status of the figure and the importance of the figure in the painting.
With its unique beauty, phad painting has the reputation of being one of the most sought after folk paintings in the world.