Crafts of Holi: India's Festive Artistry

Holi is probably North India's most enthralling festival, celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy. While most people associate Holi with playing with gulal, drinking thandai, and eating sweets, this colorful festival is much more than just that. Many communities and villages in India have their own distinctive traditions related to Holi, some of which involve the creation of beautiful pieces of traditional art. Sadly, these cultural practices often remain hidden from the mainstream, confined to the close-knit communities that preserve them. This article aims to shed light on some of the art and crafts that are closely associated with this ancient celebration.



The Pushtimarg tradition is a Hindu sect that emphasizes devotion to Lord Krishna. According to this tradition, the Pichhwai hanging behind the temple is changed for Holi festivities. Pichhwai is a style of painting that originated in Rajasthan and is characterized by the use of bright colors, intricate designs, and depictions of Lord Krishna's life. During Holi, the Pichhwai is transformed into a vibrant and joyous depiction of the festival. The Holi Pichhwai features huge mountains, trees, peacocks, and Radha-Krishna playing with pichkaaris and gulal. A beautiful Pichhwai is made and hung for Holi every year, and it serves as a focal point for festivities in Pushtimarg temples. The Pichhwai adds a festive touch to the temple and is enjoyed by devotees and visitors alike.

Holi Phad Painting
Source: tanjand.livejournal



Sanjhi Art is a unique craft form from Mathura that involves cutting intricate designs and picture motifs into paper using specially designed scissors. This traditional art form depicts the various Leelas of Lord Krishna, popularly known as Thakur ji, and is often associated with Holi celebrations in Braj. The festival of Holi is celebrated with immense enthusiasm, and the region comes alive with color, music, and chaos for more than two weeks. According to our master artist Ashutosh Verma's guru, Mohan Verma– “Sanjhi Art is as popular as Holi in Braj’. Tourists flock to this region to witness the festivities and, in the process, purchase Sanjhi Art, helping to sustain the craft's life.


Sanjhi: Crafts of Holi



Phad art is a traditional style of scroll painting that originated in Rajasthan, India. It has been traditionally worshipped by the Rebari and Gujjar people and is used to narrate stories of folk deities such as Pabuji and Devnarayan. During the festival of Holi, Phads are made depicting Thakur ji playing Holi. While the Holi Phad is not performed by the Bhopas, it is sometimes displayed in temples for devotees to see and appreciate. Phad paintings are a true feast for the eyes during the Holi festivities, thanks to their intricate details and vibrant colors.


Holi Fagh by Kalyan Joshi
 Holi Fagh by Kalyan Joshi



During Holi, a traditional art form known as Mandana is created to celebrate the festival. One of the main Mandanas is called the 'Holi ka Mukut', which is made where Holika is burnt. This Mandana is typically large in size, with the center featuring a symbolic representation of Prahlad and Holika, and on the four corners, little boys stand and break a coconut-shaped ball of cow dung containing some food and grains. These balls are made by girls, who also create a garland of cow dung to place on the Holika.

A smaller version of the Mandana is also made inside the home, typically in the temple room or spot. People bring the burnt wood from the effigy burnt on the larger Mandana to put it on the Mandana in their home. Additionally, Holi is also the season of wheat harvest, and the newly harvested wheat is cooked in the fire of the holika dahan. The cooked crops are then worshiped along with deities to honor the harvest.
Holi Mandana Painting by Vidya Devi Soni
Holi ka Mukat painted by Vidya Devi Soni





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