Madhubani Paintings

The art of Madhubani painting, is the traditional style developed in the Mithila region, in the villages around Madhubani, Bihar. Madhubani literally means a forest of honey. This style of painting has been traditionally done by the women of the region, though today men are also involved to meet the demand. Hindu women who live in villages near the market town of Madhubani in northern India maintain old traditions and teach them to their daughters. Painting is one of the traditional skills that are passed down from generation to generation in the families of some of the women. They paint figures from nature and myth on household and village walls to mark the seasonal festivals of the religious year, for special events of the life-cycle, and when marriages are being arranged they prepare intricately designed wedding proposals.

Paintings from Madhubani

But even though women in the villages around Madhubani have been practicing their folk art for centuries, the world at large has come to know about these women and to consider them to be "artists" only in the last thirty years. Even now, most of their work remains anonymous.

The women, some of them illiterate, are in any case reluctant to consider themselves individual producers of "works of art" and only a few of them mark the paintings with their own name. Thework is done on freshly plastered or a mud wall. For commercial purposes, the work is now being done on paper, cloth etc. The paintings are basically of religious nature.

They are done in the special rooms in their homes (in the pooja room, ritual area, bridal room.), on the main village walls,etc., for ceremonial or ritualistic purpose. The women offer sincere prayers to the deity before starting the work. Figures from nature & mythology are adapted to suit their style.

The themes & designs widely painted are the worship of Hindu deities such as Krishna, Rama, Siva, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Sun and Moon, Tulasi plant, court scenes, wedding scenes, social happenings around them, etc. Floral, animal and bird motifs, geometrical designs are used to fill up all the gaps.  There is hardly any empty space in this style. The skill is handed down the generations, and hence the traditional designs and patterns are widely maintained.

Madhubani Arts & Crafts

It is believed that King Janaka had asked for paintings to be developed for his daughter Sita's wedding.
Cotton wrapped around a bamboo stick forms the brush. The colours applied are prepared by the artists.  Black colour is obtained by mixing soot with cow dung; yellow from turmeric or pollen or lime and the milk of banyan leaves; blue from indigo; red from the kusam flower juice or red sandalwood; green from the leaves of the wood apple tree; white from rice powder; orange from palasha flowers.

The colours are applied flat with no shading. There is normally a double line drawn for the outlines, with the gap between the lines filled by cross or straight tiny lines. In the linear painting, no colours are applied. Only the outlines are drawn.

Art works painted on paper and walls

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