Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sanjhi Art

                 Readers, I have had a blast exploring this fairly unknown art form from India called ‘Sanjhi Art’. Originated from Mathura, India; it is a truly unique craft that features exquisite designs and motifs cut on paper. Coming from Lord Krishna’s hometown Mathura, Sanjhi art began as a form of traditional stenciling. Beginning in the 16th century, these stencils were used to decorate the walls and floors of temples with motifs. ‘Sanjhi’ derived from Sandhya refers to dusk (time of day) with which the art form was typically associated with.

              In this blog feature, instead of sharing with you work from other Sanjhi artists, I am sharing with you only all the pieces I made. All the pieces you see here are hand cut by me! Please find links at the end of this feature that I think give insight into Sanjhi Art and its artists.

              Sanjhi art mainly focuses on Krishna and Krishna’s Leela (the magic and charm of Lord Krishna). According to folklore; Radha, Krishna’s main gopi (typically cow-herding girls well known for their unconditional devotion to Krishna) used colorful powders, flowers, leaves, and stones with the sanjhi stencils to decorate and woo Krishna. The other gopis also followed making intricate designs for Krishna. Leading from there this art form moved onto the Mughal period which then gave this paper cutting art a contemporary perspective with intricate lattice work cutouts.

             According to artists practicing this art, this art is a form of spiritual expression and its inherent spiritual implications extends beyond aesthetic appeal since it involves Lord Krishna. And reverence, devotion, and love of the blue god is foremost when cutting these images. Each Sanjhi art piece is visually impressive, the cutting requires enormous patience, skill, and concentration, and the fine intricate details are achieved using specially designed scissors.


                 I had so much fun with the first few pieces that I just kept going on with more of them. I could not imagine making small precise cuts with a scissors so instead I used an exacto blade craft cutting knife and printed images on scrapbook paper. Ideally this paper would be too thick for finer details and intricate cuts. But I preferred this weight paper for my first pieces. I must say it was time consuming, required a lot of patience, and was rough on my cutting arm. Changing blades often and taking breaks helps.

Of Interest:
Two artists Vijay Soni and Mohan Kumar belong to families that are one of the few custodians of this ancient art form and are fifth generation upholders of this art.
Visit Artist Vijay Soni’s website:

And you absolutely have to check out this amazing Sanjhi artist Jaishree Pankaj

                    Paper cutting art forms are popular all over the world with kirigami from Japan, Swiss German Scherenschnitte, Wycinanki from Poland, Papel Picado Mexican folk art, Chinese paper cutting or Jianzhi, French art of paper cutting, and many such more. Sanjhi from India was especially enjoyable for me as I love the Indian motifs and patterns. But it is simple amazing to see the some of the work in paper cutting that is being done by some incredible talented artists all around the world. The scope and breadth of the pieces that these artists have taken this art form to is just simply incredible. Although my skills and pieces are at an amateur level, I thoroughly enjoyed my exploration of Sanjhi art. 



  1. Thank you for the informational post. Can you please let me know some resources from where I can purchase the patterns for the art?

    1. Most paper cutting artists usually make their own patterns for cutting and they are copyrighted. Sanjhi art patterns are very specific to Mathura and you could possible find some in cultural centers in India, though honestly I have not been able to get my hands on any intricate ones. You could design some similar ones Sanjhi yourself. If you are not particular about Sanjhi itself and are interested in paper-cutting then any stencil or any simple pattern would be a good starting point.