Pichhavai is a decorated backdrop for the image of god in household shrines and temples. Masulipatnam in Golconda was a famous centre of textile-printing from the 17th–19th centuries, supplying to the Western market with huge curtain backdrops and other materials created by a combination of wood block printing and hand painting. The present piece is an excellent example of Masulipatnam work in textile printing. Tinsel work comprises the use of an adhesive substance which is printed over the texture and subsequently dusted with colouring matter. Here in this piece, it appears that yellow coloured adhesive is first printed over the required designs and pure gold leaf is then laid on them indiscriminately. It is then dried in the shade, rolled up and unrolled bit by bit after being moistened with a wet cloth. When it is adequately damp, gold is daubed over the surface.

The painting illustrates the theme of the Tree worship, an old Indian tradition surviving till today. Highly stylised flowering tree in the center is difficult to identify. A group of four ladies is standing on either side of the tree, one behind the other, offering their obeisance to it. The first one waves an arati with several wicks while the remaining three hold a fan, a chauri and a morchal. Clad in bright coloured Rajasthani costume of brocaded ghagra (skirt), choli (blouse) and odhni, and decorated with profuse ornaments, these women possess large eyes and strong features.

The top panel represents a forest which includes a large variety of birds and animals. The central tree is laden with flowers with parrots perched on its branches. The tree has a peculiar balloon-shaped canopy which is enclosed in a running border of black chain, used almost as an outline of the painting. This singular tree on top of the hill is flanked by a peacock on either side. The hill is represented by a series of serrated rocks with a variety of birds, animals and trees. An amazing variety of birds and animals, both tame and wild, seem to be consciously included by the designer, to create an environment of a bountiful forest. The broad border running along on all the four sides have bold floral creeper designs.

This may be a stylised representation of the worship of Kalpavriksha– the wish fulfilling tree. The motif was later modified to suit the taste of Western elite who recognised it as the Tree of Life.


Textiles and Costumes of India

Object Type

Cloth Painting


Partly tinsel and block printed






Early 18th Century CE




81 x 73 cms