The goddess resides in streets and slums of the city, within the textile temples of Mata ni Pachedis
The video shows the textile of Mata ni Pachedi used for a religious ceremony.
The Mata, or the Mother Goddess shrine cloth, is most in demand during Navratri, the nine days when incarnations of Goddess Durga are worshipped across large parts of India.
Thousands of artisans are busy during that time. Clients commission Chittara artists, as the Vaghari artists are now known, to make the central figure of their own protector goddess, surrounded by images of the other incarnations, legends, portions from religious epics and even shamans.
The central goddess rides on her preferred form of transport. Goddess Vihat (the goddess of the arts) rides a buffalo, Goddess Chamundi sits atop a lion and Goddess Vahanvati travels in a boat.
Birds, flowers, trellises and stylised borders complete the animated and sacred textile wonderland.
The gods and goddesses have never demanded gilded thrones and marble structures to inhabit the hearts of the faithful.
That being an accepted fact at all levels of a hierarchical society, many communities placed a small shrine at the crossroads of busy streets, in a small corner of their hut, under a large banyan tree on the roadside and even under a rock.
Jagdish Chittara is a Mata ni Pachedi artist who lives in Maganpura locality of Ahmedabad city, Gujarat, India.
From his small house in a compact neighbourhood, he produces beautiful textiles of the Mother Goddess.
Jagdish takes his textile art down to the Sabarmati River for washing, which is done before the mordant develops and fixes the natural dyes he uses in his work.
The artist dries the cloth out on whatever dry surface he can find.
Near the spot he chooses at the river, is a modern temple where locals come to pray.
Jagdish Chitara earlier lived in an older part of the city. Much of his community is settled there.
His own family home is now inhabited by his brother, who sells screen printed Mata ni Pachedi textiles.
Being lower priced than the hand-painted versions, these are in popular demand, especially during the Navratri season, when the Mother Goddess is worshipped.
The Vagharis, like many other social groups for whom they make Mata ni Pachedis, had small shrines dedicated to the Goddess that they constructed by the roadsides, or near their homes.
Jagdish Chittara’s family put their savings into making a larger temple in the locality.
This is maintained by a young man from the community. For festivals and ritual prayers, the shaman comes to conduct worship here.
Fine hand-painted, natural-dyed works of artists like Jagdish and Sanjay Chitara find their way to collections in the cities, where they are treated as works of art.
The majority of the Mata ni Pachedis that are used for worship by marginalised groups today are screen-printed using chemical colours.
These are sold directly from the homes of the artists and are advertised through printed textiles strung out along roadsides.
Bikes whizz past and the city goes about its work while the goddess watches over.
Text: Aloka Hiremath, Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Suleiman Merchant
Artisans: Jagdish Chittara, Sanjay Chittara
Ground Facilitator: Aloka Hiremath
Documentary Video: Suleiman Merchant
Curation: Aradhana Nagpal