The Vaghri Harijans settled in Ahmadabad make their living by block printing and painting shrine cloth known as Mata ni Pachedi or Mata no Chandarvo. These imposing textiles are used as canopies over the image of the mother Goddess. Traditionally the shrine cloths were made by the Vaghri Harijan community who were not allowed to enter the temples. They made the Pachedis as an offering to the Goddesses. The cloth has a formal patterned quality, strong and bold, reinforced by the starkness of red and black. Pachedis are used in religious ceremonies and record the myths and legends associated with the living traditions of the people.
Always, the goddess is the destroyer of evil with weapons in all her ten arms looking fierce and commanding, invoking awe and fear in the onlooker. She is at the center, the focus of the painting with motifs of deities, priests, devotees, angels and animals drawn around her. Often they are performing garba, a traditional dance in the honor of the mother goddess. These are narratives from epics arranged in columns around her. The themes, stories, dimensions and proportions of the motifs are interpreted differently according to the artist’s sensibility and visualization. Many legends are depicted in these Pachedis. They are usually derived from Puranic myths. What remains constant is the Mataji, who according to the Vaghri tribes, protects and helps people. Traditionally maroon and black were the colors used, with the surface of the material as the third color. The maroon and black colors were natural dyes sourced from alizarin and oxidized metal. To meet contemporary tastes, the Vaghris have started using other natural colours adding yellow, blue orange, rust, grey and even pink to the colour palette. Contrasts between positive and negative spaces formed an important balancer to the work. The maroon and black colors were natural...