Textile Art that Serves as a Shrine for the Marginalised and Excluded

Dastkari Haat Samiti

The goddess resides in streets and slums of the city, within the textile temples of Mata ni Pachedis

Mata ni Pachedi: A screen printed Mata ni Pachedi textile, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Mata ni Pachedi
The Vagharis were nomads who lived along the edges of the Sabarmati River in Gujarat. Cultivators and agricultural workers, they also sold or exchanged old goods. Around 300 years ago they became artists and creators of the Mata ni Pachedi, an impressive form of textile art that serves the purpose of a shrine for the marginalised and excluded, of whom they were also a part of.
Mata ni Pachedi: Filling the colour, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The video shows the textile of Mata ni Pachedi used for a religious ceremony.

Mata ni Pachedi: A traditional Mata ni Pachedi, Sanjay Chitara, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: A traditional Mata ni Pachedi, Sanjay Chitara, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: A traditional Mata ni Pachedi, Sanjay Chitara, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: Screen printed artwork on the street, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Chittara environs in Ahmedabad
The Mata ni Pachedi emanated from the needs of the poor and the marginalised in the society. They found a textile which they could sanctify to the level of a temple or a shrine, since they were not welcome in formal temples. These spiritual urges and human creativity combined to create the art form known commonly as Mata ni Pachedi.
Mata ni Pachedi: Inside Jagdish Chitara's family temple, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: In front of Jagdish Chitara's house, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Jagdish Chittara is a Mata ni Pachedi artist who lives in Maganpura locality of Ahmedabad city, Gujarat, India.

Mata ni Pachedi: View from Jagdish Chitara's house, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

From his small house in a compact neighbourhood, he produces beautiful textiles of the Mother Goddess.

Mata ni Pachedi: Washing off excess dye, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: Drying the cloth, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The artist dries the cloth out on whatever dry surface he can find.

Mata ni Pachedi: A temple by the riverfront, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Near the spot he chooses at the river, is a modern temple where locals come to pray.

Mata ni Pachedi: Drying the cloth, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
The houses of the artists
Since the Vaghari community who create the Mata ni Pachedis were among the itinerant poor who shifted from place to place along the banks of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad, the sacred textiles emerge from their tiny homes and are washed in the local, and often muddy, river. They are dried on pipes and rocks nearby.
Mata ni Pachedi: The houses of the artists and their patrons, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Jagdish Chitara earlier lived in an older part of the city. Much of his community is settled there.

Mata ni Pachedi: Artist Jagdish Chitara at the entrance to his family home, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: Shrines along the streets, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: Jagdish Chitara's family temple in Ahmedabad, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: A screen printed Mata ni Pachedi textile, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
The streets
The artists sell their works from their homes, advertised by images of the incarnations of the Goddess Durga, strung out along narrow streets. Every community wants protection from ill-luck, illness and poverty. The faith that their chosen goddess will grant this if worshiped with devotion, serves as motivation for the Chittara artists, who use their faith to achieve fame at another level. The goddess visits them without discrimination and inhabits their crowded streets and their hearts.
Mata ni Pachedi: A screen printed Mata ni Pachedi textile, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: Screen printed artwork on the street, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

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.

Mata ni Pachedi: Sanjay Chitara's framed artwork, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about Mata ni Pachedi here:

- Creating a Mata ni Pachedi
- The Community
- New Pathways

Dastkari Haat Samiti
Credits: Story

Text: Aloka Hiremath, Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Suleiman Merchant
Artisans: Jagdish Chittara, Sanjay Chittara
Ground Facilitator: Aloka Hiremath
Documentary Video: Suleiman Merchant
Curation: Aradhana Nagpal

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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