Mata, Shakti, and Devi are mythological names that conjure up vivid ideas. Goddess’s many forms are imagined by the Chitara families of Gujarat’s roaming Waghris tribe as hand-painted or block-printed images on textiles, surrounded by stories from mythology, epics, and folklore. The term ‘Mata-ni-Pachedi’ literally means ‘that which enshrines the Goddess.’
This craft has been documented for about 300 years. The shrine fabric always features a central depiction of ‘Mata,’ the mother goddess in her terrifying form, sitting on her throne or riding an animal, wielding the weapons needed to destroy demons. Traditionally, only the colors maroon and black were employed, with the material’s surface serving as the third color. Maroon was thought to have healing abilities and was associated with Mother Earth. White was the color of purity, whereas black was thought to ward off evil spirits. Other hues were also added to the palette.
While the picture used to be a portable shrine that could be displayed and worshipped inside or outside the home, temples now have no admission limitations. Because worship takes place in houses, a Mata ni Pachedi picture can be found in the prayer rooms of both the wealthy and the poor.
Individuals used a wooden stick to create their Pachedi, which they then offered for worship. Clay blocks were constructed for simplicity of reproduction and to apply mineral colors to the cloth as the work progressed. The print was harsh, and after a few usages, it became dispersed. As a result, after a brief productive life, these clay bricks were thrown into the river. Wood blocks gradually took their place, which not only lasted longer but also allowed for crisper drawings. Mata-ni-Pachedis are still made using wood blocks nowadays. Hand-drawn Pachedis are produced alongside block-printed Pachedis but are more labour-intensive. As a result, hand drawn Pachedis are more expensive. As a result of the economic shift, only a small percentage of Mata-ni-Pachedis are now hand-drawn.
In addition, there is a substantial difference between ancient Pachedis and contemporary Pachedis. Pachedis were used for group worship in the past, and once hanging up, the Pachedi would be seen by a wide group of people. As a result, the proportions of both the textile and the designs are drawn on it were huge, and the Pachedis might be up to 3 meters long.
An art style that was previously considered folk art and practiced by the general public has evolved over the years to become a type of art made solely by expert artists. Only three surviving families of painters make Mata-ni-Pachedis now, with the productive generation continuing their ancestral art. It remains to be seen if the next generation will find this profession financially viable enough to pursue the sake of art.