'Phad’ is a unique scroll making folk art of Rajasthan, synonymous with the Bhopa community of the state. The art uses a long sheet of cloth, mostly ranging from fifteen to thirty feet, as a canvas on which miniscule scenes are either painted or sewn. The purpose of the painting is to depict a tale using images like regular comics.
The most common protagonist of Phad painting is Pabuji, a folk-deity of Rabari community. In fact, the origin of this style of painting had first begun to depict the legend of Pabuji, coining the name Pabuji ki Phad. These phads of Pabuji have religion significance for the communities that worship Pabuji, giving them the title of mobile temples, which the Bhopas (priest community of Pabuji) carry with themselves wherever they go to preach.
Though the icons created on these phads are logically arranged, the task of reading them is rather complex. Bhopas carefully narrate the story pictured on the phad, usually reciting it in the Maand style of singing. Another prominent protagonist of Phad is Devnarayan, an ancient mighty warrior of Gurjar community. Usually, the phads of Devnarayan are longer than that of Pabuji, and are simply known as Devnarayan Phad.
Whether it is Devnarayan Phad or Pabuji ki Phad, religious association of the art is something no one can doubt. There is even a decommissioning ritual of Phad that is performed with as much sanctity as what would be due to a deity’s idol. When the Phad wears out, it is properly immersed in the holy waters of Ganges or Pushkar Lake. The process is called Tandakarna, which literally means cooling out the divine powers.
When it comes to painting or sewing phads, most of the traditional artists hail from the Joshi families in Rajasthan, mostly concentrated in the Bhilwara district. The process these traditional artists use to create a phad is completely organic. From the canvas, made of Khadi fabric, to the paint colors, made from the extracts of vegetables, everything that goes into the making of this art is eco-friendly. Indeed, the art is quite distinct, and well-worth of reverence it possesses.