Mata-ni-Pachedi is a traditional art of painting the image of goddesses on a piece of cloth found in the temple which is of a multicolored animated images of gods and goddesses, devotees, followers, flora and fauna with a narrative story. The term Mata-ni-Pachedi originated from Gujarati language, where Mata means ‘goddess’, ni means ‘belongs to’ and Pachedi means ‘behind’ When people of the nomadic Vaghari community of Gujarat were barred from entering temples, they made their own shrines with depictions of the Mother Goddess of different forms on to the cloth.
Vaghris of Gujarat are landless labourers, working as stone-masons, or selling cattle, goats, vegetables and datan-twig toothbrushes for their living. This community is devipujak which means they mainly worship Devi and their main deities are Meldi Mata, Kalika Mata, Khodiyar Maa, Bahucharaji/Becharaji etc. The Vaghris also believe in animal sacrifice to Mataji for various pujas where consumption of meat and alcohol seems to be a culturally accepted custom.
They were barred from temples as they belonged to backward classes hence, these nomads decided to take the goddess with them through elaborated hand painted tapestry.
As the Vaghris settled on the outskirts of towns and villages, Pachedis served the purpose of narrative pieces of art like other temple hangings of the country. While the Chitaras were the artists who painted the shrine hangings, the bhuvo or bhuva used to be the priest to perform the rituals and jagorais were the singers who interpreted the Pachedis.
The unique feature of these temple hangings was that instead of being hung behind an icon, four to five pieces were erected to form a shrine for the goddess. These hangings used by the nomadic tribe served the purpose of depicting the epics of the mother goddess as well as forming a temporary shrine for her.
A Pachedi is a rectangular piece of fabric as opposed to a Chandarvo which is a canopy serving in place of a ceiling in the nomadic shrine The community reverently drew on the fabric and filled in the images by hand. The Waghari painters literally Chitaras amalgamated block printing as their exposure to other textile forms grew.
Most of the artists or Artisans are still working as painters to maintain the tradition and to pass on the art to further generation artists. There are very few artisans who are practicing painting as their medium of profession or expression, as most of the other artisans have adapted printing as their medium. Besides painting all the artisans work as printers on full time basis and painting has become more of a spare time activity, which results in less production. It is an expensive & time consuming medium. Quite a number of artisans have won the National Award and One senior artist is also the proud awardee of Shilp Guru Award, which is considered the highest National recognition in the field of Crafts.The only tool they use is twig of Neem tree.
Initially, this nomadic community used to erect temporary shrines by stretching backdrops behind the image of Mataji and use canopies serving as ceilings of nomadic shrines. Such backdrops and canopies are used by devotees during Navaratris of March and October, and also the 10 days’ Dashama vrat celebration during July-August.