Folk Arts of Rajasthan

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Folk Arts of Rajasthan

Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring trades’ people. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Folk Art is characterized by a naïve style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective are not employed.

As a phenomenon that can chronicle a move towards civilization yet rapidly diminish with modernity, industrialization, or outside influence, the nature of folk art is specific to its particular culture. The varied geographical and temporal prevalence and diversity of folk art make it difficult to describe as a whole, though some patterns have been demonstrated.

Characteristics-Characteristically folk art is not influenced by movements in academic or fine art circles, and, in many cases, folk art excludes works executed by professional artists and sold as “high art” or “fine art” to the society’s art patrons. On the other hand, many 18th- and 19th-century American folk art painters made their living by their work, including itinerant portrait painters, some of whom produced large bodies of work.

Terms that might overlap with folk art are naïve art, tribal art, primitive art, popular art, outsider art, traditional art, tramp art and working-class art/blue-collar art. As one might expect, these terms can have multiple and even controversial connotations but are often used interchangeably with the term “folk art”.

Folk art expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. It encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms. Folk art reflects traditional art forms of diverse community groups — ethnic, tribal, religious, occupational, geographical, age- or gender-based — who identify with each other and society at large. Folk artists traditionally learn skills and techniques through apprenticeships in informal community settings, though they may also be formally educated. Folk arts are simple, direct, and mostly always colorful.

Antique Folk Art-Antique folk art is distinguished from traditional art in that, while collected today based mostly on its artistic merit, it was never intended to be ‘art for art’s sake’ at the time of its creation. Examples include: weathervanes, old store signs and carved figures, itinerant portraits, carousel horses, fire buckets, painted game boards, cast iron doorstops and many other similar lines of highly collectible “whimsical” antiques.

Contemporary Folk Art-Many folk art traditions like quilting, ornamental picture framing, and decoy carving continue to thrive, while new forms constantly emerge. Contemporary folk artists are frequently self-taught as their work is often developed in isolation or in small communities across the country.

Rajasthani folk art has been divided into following types:

Wall & ground paintings: Devra, Pathwari, Sanjhi, Mandav etc.

Cloth Paintings: Pat, Pichhwai, Phad etc.

Painting on Paper: Paane

Painting made on Wood: Kavad

Painting on Human body: Mehandi, Godana

Thape: Thape is a form of drawings on walls.In Rajasthan it is made up turmeric, geru, henna and kumkum and the Pictures are drawn on the both side of the door, to invoke deities, Prevalent in Rajasthan

Badaley: In Jodhpur, metal utensils used for drinking water have a layer of cloth or leather wrapped around them. They are provided with beautiful designs & colors.

Thewa Art: Thewa is a special art of jewelry making which involves embossing of intricately worked-out sheet gold on molten glass. It evolved in Pratapgarh district, Rajasthan India. Its origin dates back to the Mughal age.

Thewa is a traditional art of fusing 23K Gold with multicolored glass. The glass is treated by a special process to have glittering effects, which in turn highlights the intricate gold work. The whole Thewa piece is hand crafted over a period of one month by skilled artisans. Thewa, an art that pulsates with life, caught seemingly in movement, in motifs used on jewellery, which shows the culture, heritage and tales of romance and valour of Rajasthan with nature and happiness depicting the art of the fine craftsmanship. The process of making Thewa work is detailed; time consuming and intricate, taking up to a month to complete each piece. It starts with broken pieces of terracotta, finely ground, mixed with chemicals and oil to produce a thick paste. The paste spread on a wooden base has a 23carat gold sheet of 40gauge thickness set onto the mixture and the free hand design etched on it. Black paint spread over the gold sheet that highlights the design so it becomes clearly visible for further detailed work with fine tools. The craftsman removes the excess gold creating a design often based on the Hindu mythology or Mughal court scenes, historical events or with flora and fauna motifs.

Origin-Nathu ji Soni invented the process; the secrets of the craft that passed directly from father to son over the generations’ remains it in the family only, who call themselves ‘Raj-Sonis’. Many of the members from this family have been awarded by UNESCO, National & State Government. Some of the finest examples of this unique form of decorative art are in local museum collections in India as well as abroad including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria & Albert.

Other Origin: THEWA is a word from the local Rajasthani language which literally means “SETTING”. Thewa is an art of fusing 23ct gold with multicolored glass. It is a very detailed and intricate process. A 23ct gold piece is first beaten into a very thin sheet. Intricate designs are inscribed onto these gold sheets using very fine chisel. This gold sheet, called as “Thewa Ki Patti” is fixed to a lac-resin compound spread on a board by slightly warming the lac and then pressing the gold sheet onto it. An open work pattern is pierced thru these gold sheets placed on the lac-resin covered board by knocking off the portions which ultimately creates the intricate design. The gold sheet is gently peeled off by heating it. Like the rest of Rajasthan handicrafts, the glass works of Pratapgarh are unique in both design and usage. Besides beautiful and traditional items such as handicraft items, glass photo frames, trays, glass art ware, glass jewelry boxes, lamp shades, flower vases, crystal wine glasses, flasks, glass pots, antique crystal chandeliers, glass coasters, glass lamp shades and glass paintings, Pratapgarh is renowned for its Thewa work. Colored glass base, embossed with golden miniature artwork is the special attraction of the Thewa work. Floral patterns are etched on gold foil and superimposed on glass moulds and the glassware is cast in such moulds. Thewa pendants are famous pieces of jewelry and their blazing hues and exquisite patterns attract women across the world. Like many others of the local craftsmen, Jagdish Lal Raj Soni and Beni Ram Soni craft persons from Pratapgarh in Rajasthan state in India were also awarded Shilp Guru Award for Thewa art.

Recently one craftsman Mahesh Raj Soni of the traditional artisan family has won another national award and Padma Shree 2015 for his excellent Thewa handicraft and with this his family has been featured in the LIMCA yearbook 2011 as “Eight national awards in one family”  Hitesh Rajsoni has been awarded by ” UNESCO Seal of Excellence Award” in 2004. He is the youngest personality in Rajsoni Family who got this Award.

There are some who need a tree to meditate. And some who need music. But then there are those, who fend for gold. Because the fine nuances of creating intricate patterns in gold require such keen patience and concentration, that the art indeed becomes a true meditative bliss to the senses. And the gratification of coming the closest, that any mortal’s tactile memory can ever get, to touch a piece of art as overwhelming and magnificent, as the idea of god himself.

  • When the hunting tigers and Stags from the wild imagination of Nathu ji Soni descended onto the canvas of gold, Thewa was born about 500 years ago.
  • It is believed that this magnificent art wrapped around a big box impressed Raja Savant Singh of Pratapgarh so much that he bestowed immense wealth upon the Soni (goldsmith) and rewarded him with the title of ‘Rajsoni’- The chief jeweler of the court.
  • Both the title and the craft are being passed on through generations. Mutual learning amongst family and friends has made it into a small cluster of craftsmen who perform this craft rather secretively.

Thewa comes from two words of the local dialect, ‘Tharna’ – meaning to hammer(to get thin foils of gold from very small quantity of the metal) and ‘Vada’ – meaning silver wire (which in the loop form makes the resting foundation for the main piece), both being the most important aspects of the art. While the forefathers of this art only made chests and boxes, today the masters of this skill have extend their expertise to photo frames, mirrors, cufflinks, brooches, trays, plates and personal accessories like rings and necklaces which are adorned by men and women alike. The inspiration for this art comes from the Mogul miniature paintings involving traditional design subjects ranging from mythological genres to the more secular themes. Today the art has acquired a more unique stance than ever because the conventional style has been blended with a variety of techniques like Meenakari, diamond setting etc and a new palette of materials, which includes – beads, threads and others lending a contemporary idiom to the time honored practice.

Thirty two year old Giresh Raj Soni is a descendent of Nathu ji Soni and continues to dwell in the competence of this art. Besides being conferred with State and National Awards, Giresh ji and his wife Usha Soni have been recognized by UNESCO as well. The Government of India has even issued a stamp featuring an awe-inspiring piece of Thewa on a plate in 2002. But no material honor can compete with what the Rajsoni has accomplished for himself by ritualistically engaging himself in this art of controlled precision – a calm and collected temperament that leaves him happy to confess – ”I’ve lost the ability to ever get angry”.

The craft requires a working plane made locally using ‘chapadi’ (purified lac) to create a hard bed. Pure 23-carat gold, silver strips, Belgian glass and strings of beads and stones are amongst the other raw materials involved.

It becomes essential to constantly check on the lac bed for air bubbles else it may cause an avoidable denting of the fragile gold foil. Master craftsmen however do not sketch; instead they directly puncture the blueprint with fine chisels and sharp tools. But such is the single minded attention required, that any error or deviation in the process of splitting the pattern can result in the entire piece of foil being wasted. All such discarded pattern sheets and cut outs from the jail are melted again and prepared for the fresh work.

The entire jali is then laid out in a frame of silver wire called “vaada” to lessen the risk of damage. The silver wire frame used in this task is pre-assembled on brass dies and soldered to precision. The entire framed composition is then set out on a mica sheet using forceps with extremely controlled and steady hands. Once pinned together over the mica, the two metals can be easily soldered and the mica is then removed. The delicate entity so obtained is then placed on a piece of colored Belgian glass using am bonding technique that remains to be a unique secret within the family. A solid silver casing called ‘chandi ki dibiya’ is then used to enclose the entire composition including the Belgian glass.

The art has remained a guarded secret…. even the daughters of the family are kept ignorant about the master stroke technique, considering that they will eventually settle out of the clan. The boys of the house on the other hand are trained in sketching patterns from the age of ten, so that when they finally start to practice the art, the language and expression of these jaali scenes unconsciously and effortlessly flows out of their hands, directly into the foil.

The ever-increasing prices of gold have rendered this practice as a good deal for those who subscribe to more value for less money.

  • Thewa art is minute painting on glass using gold.
  • Glass used is colored Belgium glass.
  • Different colors are used to make it attractive
  • The art is limited to Pratapgarh

Mandana Art

  • Mandana is an art of the tribal wall and floor paintings found in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
  • It is derived from the word ‘Mandan‘ referring to decoration and beautification and comprises simple geometric forms like triangles, squares and circles to decorate houses.
  • In tribal ideology they are famed for warding off evil and acting as a good luck charm.
  • It uses white khariya or chalk solution and geru or red ochre.
  • The design may show Ganesha, peacocks, women at work, tigers, floral motifs, etc.


Phad painting or Phad is a style religious scroll painting and folk painting, practiced in Rajasthan state of India.This style of painting is traditionally done on a long piece of cloth or canvas, known as Phad. The narratives of the folk deities of Rajasthan, mostly of Pabuji and Devnarayana are depicted on the Phads. The Bhopas, the priest-singers traditionally carry the painted Phads along with them and use these as the mobile temples of the folk deities. The Phads of Pabuji are normally about 15 feet in length, while the Phads of Devnarayana are normally about 30 feet long. Traditionally the Phads are painted with vegetable colors.

The Joshi families of Bhilwara, Shahpura in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan are widely known as the traditional artists of this folk art-form for the last two centuries. Presently, Shree Lal Joshi, Nand Kishor Joshi, Prakash Joshi and Shanti Lal Joshi are the most noted artists of the Phad painting, who are known for their innovations and creativity. Noted examples of this art are Devnarayana Ki Phad and Pabuji Ki Phad.

  • Phad is a painted scroll, which depicts stories of epic dimensions about local deities and legendary heroes.
  • Bhopas (local priests) carry these scrolls on their shoulders from village to village for a performance Represents the moving shrine of the deity and is an object of worship.
  • Most popular & largest Phad – local deities Devnarayanji and Pabuji.
  • Shahpura, Tehsil in Bhilwara is famous for Phad.
  • 2006, Shri laal Joshi – was awarded Padamshri for contribution to Phad.

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