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Celebrating Spirituality of Lord Krishna with Sanjhi Art

Sanjhi is a traditional art form from Mathura, the hometown of Lord Krishna. Widely appreciated for its spiritual outlook that conveys much more than aesthetic beauty, it is rightly recognised as one of the greatest forms of spiritual expression. The art form rose to prominence in Indian culture in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the floors and walls of the places of worship were adorned with Sanjhi inspired motifs and designs. The word Sanjhi comes from the Hindi word sandhya. This was chosen as a name because it refers to the period of dusk which Sanjhi artists often portray in their paintings. The art form often portrays stories from Indian mythology often focusing on Krishna’s Leela. Folktales suggest that the first Sanjhi art designs were made by Radhe who used flowers, natural colours and pigmented stone to make Sanjhi rangolis. Others soon copied his initiative, creating detailed designs to please Krishna. According to the tale, Sanjhi art became popular from that time on. The influence of the Mughal era added a contemporary outlook to the art form.

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After the ancient tradition of Sanjhi art was adopted by Vaishnava temples in the 15th and 16th century, it was developed further into a highly complex form of a painting by uniquely trained Brahman priests. Sanjhi art can mostly be seen in the temples which are made using dry colours applied onto an eight-sided earthen platform to symbolize a lotus with eight petals. The heart of the design symbolizes a seat for the divine couple. A detailed design in the sanctum sanctorum will often portray complex interlocked diagonal patterns meant to expand divinity in all eight directions. The modern Sanjhi art piece is created using stencils made from specially designed scissors. The stencils are placed on a level surface where the Rangoli is to be applied. Dry colours are then sifted onto the stencil. Horses, peacocks, trees and butterflies are some of the most common designs. Sanjhi artists' attention to detail is meant to signify intimate love and devotion to Krishna.

Modern Sanjhi art is popular all over India. It is displayed in public areas such as train stations and is used in interior decor. Recently, Sanjhi art also featured in the pictograms used for the commonwealth games.

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