Pithora Paintings are much more than colorful images on walls for the tribes ofRathwas, Bhilals, and Naykas of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh . They signify the advent of an auspicious occasion (like weddings, childbirth, festivals) in the family or community. An art form, which essentially conveys the joy and celebration of a community, has to reflect the collective mood of it, and Pithora paintings with their colors and animated figures mirrors the sentiments of their creators.
The essence of a Pithora painting lies in its earthiness; everything from the theme to the execution has the ethnicity of rural India. Even materials used are quite exotic: the colors are prepared by mixing pigments with milk and liquor prepared from the auspicious Mahuda tree. Indeed the joie de vivre of the community couldn't have found a more suitable mean of expression.
The tribes of Rathwas , Bhils and Nayaks of central Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh practice this Art form.
The Rathwas have a distinct cultural heritage and an interesting historical background. They mimic the upper caste of Tadagis in their way of life. They depend on the forests around them for a livelihood. The forests therefore are sacred for them. The family is the most important unit of this tribe and they practice arranged marriages, however clan exogamy is also observed. Their intrinsic aesthetics is evident in their quaintly done mud hits, which are adorned with colorful Pithora Paintings.
The Amitabha Buddha is the "Buddha of Infinite Light”. Amitabha Thangkas are a physical representation of the transmutation of worldly desires into all encompassing luminous awareness. These Thangkas depict Amitabha Buddha seated in his celestial paradise called Sukhavati, or the "realm of bliss”. Amitabha Buddha positions his hands in the typical gesture of meditation and also holds the begging bowl of an ordained Buddhist monk . The begging Bowl is a symbol of infinite openness and receptivity.
What are Thangkas?
Thangka Paintings are composite three-dimensional products of art, which derive their themes from Buddhist philosophies. They are essentially religious objects and are of great significance to the Tibetan Buddhists . These beautifully crafted banners are generally hung on monastery walls; they are also an integral part of Buddhist religious processions.
Thangka - The structure
A Thangka comprises a painted or embroidered picture panel, a mounting, which is further embellished with a silk cover, wooden dowels at the top and bottom, leather corners and beautiful metal or wooden decorative knobs on the bottom dowel.
Bani Thani Paintings
Bani Thani paintings characterize the Kishangarh school of paintings. It is believed that Bani Thani was a housemaid or slave girl of Raja Sawant Singh’s (1748-1764) stepmother Bankawatji. She remained in close proximity of Bankawatji and got the opportunity to study literature. She had a natural flair for poetry and composed beautiful songs on Krishna.
Though Bankawatji and Raja Sawant Singh did not have cordial relations, love blossomed between him and Bani Thani. She was an enchanting beauty, tall, slim, with queenly smile and red lips. There is a painting, which describes Sawant Singh sitting in the premises of the temple and a beautiful maiden in a yellow sari walks steadily in a soft, shy manner holding the sari, in the right hand and making a veil. She carries a garland of white flowers in her left hand to be put on the deity and all attention of Sawant Singh is on this elegant girl. And the girl is none other than Bani Thani.
Besides being an ardent devotee of Krishna, Savant Singh was an accomplished poet and painter. He under the name of Nagari Das composed many poems in praise of Bani Thani. Also, there are several paintings depicting the amorous episode of Krishna and Radha carrying the name of Nagari Das at back. He instructed his chief court painter Nihal Chand to paint Radha, the consort of Krishna drawing inspiration from Bani Thani.
The Radha of Kishangarh was the epitome of graceful Indian woman. She had an elongated face with a high forehead, arched eyebrows, half open lotus eyes, sharp pointed nose, thin curved sensuous lips and a pointed chin over a long narrow neck. The curl of the hair around the ear added to the feminine grace.
The sharp features used to portray Radha were used to describe other characters too, including the male faces in the Kishangarh.
As Sawant Singh had completely given himself to Bani Thani, she also completely entrusted herself to him. Sawant Singh went to Mt. Govardhan along with Bani Thani where Krishna had lifted the Mt. Govardhan on his index finger to safeguard the people of Brij from the wrath of Indra. He and Bani Thani sang devotional songs and later came to Mathura the birthplace of Krishna. Bani Thani came to be known as Rasik Bihari and composed the hymns for the priest Hari Das.
She died a year after her lord Nagari Das.