The Sacred and the Temporal Arts of Sanjhi

Art History/Craft History, Craft, Handloom, Art

The Sacred and the Temporal Arts of Sanjhi

Sethi, Ritu

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The depiction of episodes from the life of lord Krishna in the form of floor-illustrations – the Sanjhi - in the hallowed temple precincts of the Pushti-marg Vaishnavite sect has been traced back to the 17th century. The Sanjhi itself a huge elaborate floor-art, the laying of which is considered a form of worship and seva - offering to the deity by the priests and craftsperson’s who are steeped in devotion to Thakurjee Lord Krishna. This sacred art is additionally being practiced in its secular avatar in Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and Alwar in Rajasthan It is believed that the practice of Sanjhi is rooted in the ancient folk custom that has its origin in the ritual worship of the mother goddess Sanjhi Devi. Unmarried girls propitiated the goddess by invoking her blessings for an ideal husband. Creating decorative collages on plastered walls, using bits of colored stone, shiny metal pieces and flowers the prayer to the goddess is performed at sanjh – the twilight hour when light passes and night descends and when all  worlds coalesce  into one, hence too, the term Sanjhi. Legend has it that Radha created the first Sanjhi to woo Lord Krishna, the other gopis soon following suit, with this practice continuing till today in several villages across north India. In the 17th century when Sanjhi became become part of temple tradition linked to the devotional Bhakti movement the practice of laying the Sanjhi commenced. Today several temples across the Braj Bhoomi area associated with Lord Krishna’s youth continue the practice -...
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