Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


Decorative cloth has been used in India to portray folk epics as a means of entertainment and as a substitute for theater and other types of performing arts. I quote “The transmission media of the folk epics are large paintings, instrumental music, dances, songs, riddles, jokes, costumes and other equipments.”

“The tradition of narrating legends with the visual aid of painted panels is found in early literature - in Bhagavatisutra (third century), Visakhadatta’s Mudraraksasa (fourth century), Bana’s Harshcharitra (seventh century), and Vaddaradhane (10th century). Narrators in the Indian States of Bengal, Gujarat and Maharashtra use painted paper scrolls and those of Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, pigment painted cloths.

Itinerant storytellers, known as Bhopas, use the Phad, pigment painted large rectangular cloth scroll, in,Rajasthan, western India. The word phad is possibly derived from the Sanskrit word patt, a flat surface for painting. Phad in the Rajasthani dialect also means ‘a fold’.