In Gujarat, the Mother Goddess is worshipped by her “pujaks” or worshippers for her blessings – including members of the Vaghri community. Due to caste restrictions earlier, they were not allowed to enter temples, so they painted images of the goddess on fabric hangings – which were displayed during ceremonies and later put away when not in use.
This unique craft where images of the Mother Goddess are painstakingly painted by hand on cloth – is called Mata ni Pachedi or literally – Cloth of the Mother Goddess. The images usually feature the Goddess as the dominant figure seated in the centre holding a weapon to fight evil, with animals and plants intricately drawn around her.
This craft form is an endangered one – as there are only five families left who can carry forward this tradition that goes back over 300 years, with deep rooted knowledge passed down over generations.
National Award winning artists – siblings Sanjay Chitara and Vasant Chitara are the fourth generation of artists in their family. Sanjay says ” As a young boy, watching my father paint, I had no other ambition than to be an artist in the Mata ni Pachedi tradition and carry on this noble art. I had the opportunity to learn within my own home under the tutelage of my father who is my guru.”
While the painting was earlier a portable shrine that could be displayed and worshipped within the home or outside today there are no entry restrictions in temples. And because worship takes place in homes a Mata ni Pachedi painting is hung in the prayer rooms of the rich as well as those less affluent.
Sanjay speaks about his evolution as an artist when he says that he “….paint(s) for an art lover, who is not from my community and is mostly urban, using the idiom of my tradition to carry it forward to a contemporary audience.” As a result he now uses the unique elements of his art to express himself imaginatively and differently each time he works on a new piece. He paints only with a frayed bamboo reed on the traditional maader paat or unbleached handwoven cloth that ensures an original figure painted in minute detail.
Today a Mata ni Pachedi piece is a sought after collector’s item – even though there are experiments with colours and motifs that are traditionally not part of the Pachedi repertoire.
Team WorldArtCommunity is proud to play a role in preserving and bringing you this precious art form and the work of Sanjay and Vasant Chitara for you to appreciate and explore here