Madhubani_main.jpg

An artist making a Madhubani painting.

Madhubani motifs showing the colour palette

Use of Madhubani motifs in paper mache.

Art by Dulari Devi for ‘Following my Paint Brush’, Copyright Tara Books 2010.

Use of Madhubani on a door.

Madhubani_main.jpg
Showcase 30 Jun 2015

Madhubani – An artform from Mithila region

Madhubani literally means ‘forests of honey’ and refers to paintings, from the Bihar-Nepal border region, in a distinct style that captures viewers’ attention with their vibrancy.

Origin and Technique

Eye-catching Madhubani paintings, also referred to as Mithila Art (as it originated in the Mithila region on the Bihar-Nepal border), were traditionally painted on the walls of village homes in the Mithila region. Mythology says that this style of painting came into being when King Janak, the father of Goddess Sita, was preparing for the marriage of his daughter with Lord Ram and wanted his kingdom to wear a festive look for the occasion. The villagers fulfilled his wish by covering the kingdom’s walls with vibrant Madhubani paintings. Even today, the art of bhitti chitra (wall art) can be seen in parts of Nepal that adjoin Bihar. The origin of this art can be traced back about 2500 years. Madhubani paintings were traditionally done with natural mineral pigments prepared by the artists using locally available materials like lamp black, turmeric, henna, palash flowers, etc. These were made at home by grinding and mixing these natural colours with some homemade glue-like paste. 

The artists would first create the outlines with twigs, animal-hair brushes, or handmade nibs dipped in black paint. Colours would then be filled in by hand or brushes and finally details added with black outline work. The art is characterised by double line drawings filled in with bright contrasting colours and intricate patterns. Geometric patterns were used as borders or in parts of the artwork. These paintings were traditionally done by the women of the region.

An artist making a Madhubani painting.

Madhubani motifs showing the colour palette

Themes

The main themes used in Madhubani are: 

1.     Mythology: Indian mythological characters and stories like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata with a focus on Krishna stories. 

2.     Celestial bodies: depictions of the sun and the moon. 

3.     Nature: local flora and fauna like Tulsi (sacred basil plant), peacocks, horses, deer, fishes, tree of life, etc. 

4.     Royalty: scenes of royal courts and processions. 

5.     Social events: marriages, birth and death ceremonies are depicted in great detail in these paintings. 

6.     Religious events: festivals like Durga Puja, Holi, Kali Puja, and Surya Puja amongst others are popular themes.    

7.     Community activities: activities like farming, threshing, cooking, and fishing.  

Contemporary Madhubani

These colourful paintings are now made on handmade paper and silk cloth. The art is also replicated in modern day homes as murals and on furniture. It is also popular in sarees and other garments as a decorative element. The natural colours however, are sadly being replaced by easier-to-use acrylic paints or gouache colours. But the art form remains highly popular due to its rich and colourful expressions. Today, Madhubani is also popular in many other countries such as Japan and Korea.

Use of Madhubani motifs in paper mache.

Art by Dulari Devi for ‘Following my Paint Brush’, Copyright Tara Books 2010.

Use of Madhubani on a door.

Baaya Design is a retail store and studio that offers a range of folk and cultural artwork, home accessories, and skill-based consultancy services. Their range speaks of India’s age-old exquisite skills while mapping the current day markets with products that are contemporary expressions of traditional skills. Baaya Design aims to showcase the beauty and workmanship of Indian traditions through aesthetic products that combine traditional skills with a contemporary lifestyle.

 

 

IMAGES

• Image of painting, from the Terracotta Museum, Sanskriti Kendra, New Delhi
• Image of artist making Madhubani painting courtesy Baaya Design » www.baayadesign.com
• Detail of colour Madhubani painting, from the Terracotta Museum, Sanskriti Kendra, New Delhi Madhubani painting
• Detail of black and white Madhubani painting by Pushpa Kumari & pradyumna Kumar, pradyumnaraj@gmail.com, National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, New Delhi
• Image of Madhubani motifs on papier mâché courtesy Surabhi Khanna » http://designclinicsmsme.org/download/ DesignawarenessSeminar/paperMacheMadhubani.pdf
• Art by Dulari Devi for Following my Paint Brush, Copyright Tara Books 2010
• Image of Madhubani on a door courtesy Baaya Design »  www.baayadesign.com