Behind the Mother Goddess

Themed around Devi, Mata Ni Pachedi is a 800 year old art form that the Chitaara community is preserving in Gujarat. Also known as Kalamkari from Gujarat, the art form tells stories of Hindu Mythology and Indian folklore depicting scenes from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. As Kirit Bhai, a 9th generation artist holds a bamboo stick dipped in Allum and Mador ( natural colour to achieve deep red), he proudly draws a Devi with a sword and tells me how his family is blessed to have received this talent and opportunity to take the lineage ahead. He explains’ there are 20 family members who draw daily to create works that are commissioned by private collectors, galleries and some craft organisations. Sometimes it takes weeks or even months to complete a piece, thus making it quite expensive to produce and a challenge to sell as well. There are cheaper adaptation now in the market, but we have remained ethical and loyal to this art and continue to hand draw( instead of block that the market demands) and continue to only use natural dye”

There are a lot of tales and folklore around what is the truth behind the origin of this art, but Kirit Bhai believes that the Vaaghri community of Gujarat was not allowed to enter the temple as they were hunters. It is believed that they could communicate with the goddess and secluded themselves to make them self sufficient. Kirit Bhai shares that the Devi came in his grandfather’s dreams and encouraged him to take on the art form. He says, there are some artists from the community in Pakistan too.

Speaking of innovation, Kirit bhai shares that his works have been displayed in museums in Amsterdam and japan as well where he worked on a Japanese kimono pattern and included the art form. He says “My father is popular with institutions like NID that has led people to discover us.I want to make products like scarves that are contemporary and take the art forward that is not restricted to Gujarat only. I have aspirations to take it to the international audience, maybe through creating fashion products.”

He further adds “I only want to take this forward, but never leave this. I want to bring my signature style to some of these pieces and I have been developing my own designs. I try to network with the ones who also share a similar passion to take traditional arts forward. However, sometimes I am disappointed as collaborators don’t credit us for our work. I feel hurt that my father used to teach at institutes but the faculty would not credit his work or honour him as an artist. I have started to write my name on my pieces as i do want people to know the artist as well.There are challenges that lie as I only have one table that I want to use it to its best potential. Hence, working on larger pieces is limited. There are people who copy our designs in chemical colours with blocks thus giving a lot of market competition, buy I tend to use natural only, hence you would see a lot of blacks and reds in my pieces and some indigo too.“

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