Phad at Merton


Phad from Rajastan is now installed on the 5th Floor 

The Empress Building at 124 Merton Street is known for its art and artifacts throughout the building. As we were putting up this beautiful painting from Rajasthan one of our tenants remarked, “This is the most humane office building in Toronto.” We love to be surrounded by beautiful things and share them in the daily work atmosphere. Visitors and customers to the many types of businesses are always telling me how much they love to come to the building and are stimulated by new ideas when they visit.  

A detail from the phad

Phad painting is a popular style of folk painting, practiced in Rajasthan state of India. This style of painting is traditionally done on a long piece of cloth, known as phad. The narratives of the folk deities of Rajasthan, mostly of Pabuji and Devnarayan are depicted on the phads. The Bhopas, the priest-singers traditionally carry the painted phars along with them and use these as the mobile temples of the folk deities. The phads of Pabuji are normally about 15 feet in length, while the phads of Devnarayan are normally about 30 feet long. Traditionally the phads are painted with vegetable color. [ from wikipedia]  

The textile curator of the Royal Ontario Museum spent a week researching this piece as part of a tour of our collections for the Rom Patron Circle. The bhopas or priests would take this long painting from town to town, unravel and set it up on two poles by the rope sewn along the top of the phad. In putting the painting in a showcase I made use of and prominently displayed the worn ropes as I thought they were integral to the history of the piece. The painting tells a story of kings and the intinerant priest would move back and forth in front of the images to tell a story. These ceremonies always took place at night and would end by dawn.In fact the curator and I hatched a plan to set it up in my backyard at night and have a party  to enjoy the painting by fire light. She got married that Summer and in all the wedding planning the phad party never happened.  


As the phad fades from constant use the priests dunk it in the river to ceremonially end its use. Even though our phad is faded on the bottom and looks like it might have survived many monsoons, I am glad that the river burial was not part of the history of our piece. After 1950 they were no longer made. 

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