Sanjhi is the art of paper stencilling found in Mathura and Vrindavan, or Vrajabhoomi, the legendary birthplace of Krishna. The art involves the composition and drawing of the picture, its expert cutting with small, fine, custom-made scissors, and then the use of the stencil to create the images. Typically, in traditional Sanjhi, coloured powders or flower petals were used with the stencil to create the final image. In the more elaborate Sanjhis that were made for temple worship there was a layering of patterns, done in a sequence of motifs and colours, so the final image had intricate design and depth.
The major transformation with the intervention is that the stencil has now become the final artwork. The most striking feature of the new Sanjhi is its play with light. The shift from the old to the new Sanjhis is thus a transition from colour to light.
The other dramatic effect of the transformation of Sanjhi has been in the images, which have lost ritual significance, moving away from those associated with Krishna worship to all manner of motifs and designs.
Over time there has been a sharp decline in the demand for traditional Sanjhi for ritual purposes. Timely intervention from concerned individuals and institutions, notably the Delhi Crafts Council, brought attention to the craft giving it new directions.
Excerpts from the curatorial note for the exhibition Sanjhi-Past Forward by Ruchira Ghose