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Paintings > Folk Art > Phad > Basag Phad
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Basag Phad

Basag Phad

Basag Phad

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Phad Painting on Paper

11.0" x 16.0"
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Basag Phad

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Viewed 6253 times since 2nd Oct, 2008
Cloth as a medium of art is known to the painters in India for some two millennea now. It has now assumed the status of multi-media with its wide and varied role as mass art courier conveying aestheticism down to a hut. Cloth is the chosen medium of the folk artists of different regions, though with stylistic and technical variations such cloth paintings are as variously named. Phad, such one kind of cloth painting, is the widely prevalent folk art form of Gujarat, Bengal and Rajasthan. With serpent Basag as the enshrining deity this marvellous cloth piece in basic bold colours represents a Basag-phad, a characteristic art form of Bhilwara, Shahpura and Chittorgarh regions of Rajasthan. Generations of Chhipas and Joshis settled in these regions are the traditional artists of Basag and Dev Narayan phads. Basag is actually the corrupted form of the great serpent Vasuki, the legendary entity that holds earth on its head and Dev Narayan is a neo- Vaishnava deity of Gujjar and some other communities of Rajasthan.

As the legend has it, long back a young widow Leela Sevdi once saw a man, Hariram Rawat, with the head of a lion in his hands. In her spiritual vision she united with him and bore by this spiritual union a lion-headed child named Bagh (lion) Rawat. Bagh Rawat married twelve women who bore to him twentyfour sons who were known as Bagdavat brothers. The eldest of them was Sawai Bhoj. He was married to Sadhu Mata who was a stout devotee of Vishnu. Once in a drinking spree Bagdavat brothers poured a lot of liquor into earth.Some of this liquor reached the serpent Vasuki in the netherworld. This annoyed the great serpent. He made its complaint to Lord Vishnu who, deciding to destroy Sawai Bhoj, descended to earth. At that time Sadhu Mata, Bhaj's wife, was preparing for a bath and was practically nude. She, however forgetful of her nudeness, rushed to worship Lord Vishnu. Pleased by her devotion Vishnu promised her to incarnate as her son. A little after there appeared Dev Narayan riding a lotus floating over the divine stream gushing from the holy rocks of Malasari hills.

A large section of Rajasthani tribes worships Dev Narayan as Vishnu's incarnation. There are a number of shrines devoted to him and to the serpent Basag but more characteristic of the deity are the cloth paintings devoted to them both. These paintings are obviously folk but with characteristic bold colours, prominent features and robust male and female figures they are highly impressive. This Phad enshrines Basag in the centre as its main deity. It depicts a Gujjar chieftain proceeding to battle-field. The three arched topmost chamber is the apartment for royal ladies. Flowers in their hands symbolise their royal status. Apprehension of war lurks upon their faces. They are mutually sharing their feelings. Centrally located is Basag's shrine. This part is divided into three compartments, Basag's sanctum and its ante- and back chambers. The ante-chamber is occupied by the chieftain who is offering to the deity his worship and the back chamber by his armed personnels waiting upon their chieftain. The bottom of the canvas depicts his wife bidding him farewell.She is applying on his forehead a tilaka, the mark of victory. The horse awaiting beside them aptly defines the hour of departure.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.

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