Known for its intricate motifs and vibrant colors, the Madhubani art form is among the most famous paintings in the world. Madhubani painting also known as Mithila painting is an Indian art form developed by women from the region of Mithila in Northern Bihar. This form of painting expresses the creativity and sensitivity of its people. Like any other art, it shows the cultural identity of the land which reflects the morals, values , and customs of the region in a very interesting way.
What makes this art different from the other is that the artists aim to cover every possible inch of the canvas with patterns. Eye-catching geometrical patterns, and filling of gaps with objects like the sun-moon, flowers, animals, and birds. Initially, the paintings were made during special occasions and ceremonies but today they speak about social causes, traditions, and folklores. This age-old art is considered a living tradition of Mithila.
History And Origin
The history of Madhubani paintings is said to date back to the time of Ramayana, where king Janaka commissioned artists to capture his daughter Sita’s wedding. Though practiced for hundreds of years, Madhubani paintings were discovered only in 1934 by a British Colonial Officer William G. Archer. He chanced upon these paintings in the interior walls of the homes in Bihar while examining the damage caused by a massive earthquake.
Initially, this art was made on mud-walls or soil-ground on certain auspicious occasions and was erased the very next day. Hence there was no preservation of these works. When the region suffered from a major drought in 1960, the All India Handicrafts Board encouraged the women of the Madhubani district to make paintings on canvas paper or cloth to start generating income for a living. From then, the way of painting has diversified in different ways with Indian artists taking this art form on a global stage.
Style Of This Simple And Elegant Madhubani Art
This exceptional and meaningful Madhubani art painting was initially practiced by different sections of people and hence the paintings were divided into five different styles. These distinct styles of Madhubani paintings include Tantrik, Kohbar, Bharni, Godna, Katchni. Today, this class divide has vanished with these styles being merged by contemporary artists. However, to understand this art form better let’s take a look at these five attractive styles of Madhubani art.
This style represents the traditional and religious texts in a very accurate manner. These paintings traditionally depict Hindu mythological characters, which hold the strong belief of the Hindu public. People in India generally use these paintings in their homes for auspicious occasions like prayers.
The Kohbar paintings are one of the most popular and unique styles of Madhubani art. This style of painting is linked to Hindu wedding ceremonies, primarily made on the walls of the bride and groom’s home. Kobar is also known by the names of Tantra Raj, Yog Yogini, and Shiv Shakti, which means power with the blessing of Lord Shiva.
The word Bharni is a Hindi word, which means ‘filling’. This style of painting is precisely known for its designs with vibrant and bright colors. Usually, the Bharni paintings depict the pictures of Hindu deities and their historical contribution to Indian mythology.
Godna painting style is one of the most straightforward methods of painting done with just a pen made of bamboo and kajal to make the design. This style signifies natural creatures such as animals, birds, plants, trees, and flowers. This painting style is generally done on canvas, but now people also tend to use them as a tattoo.
Katchni painting style is a traditional style of picture coming from the Kayastha community. This particular art form has a unique individual style, mainly done only with two colors. This style of painting attracts the audience with a limited color range that highlights the peculiar features of natural aspects. Paintings are mainly based on animals, flowers, and other natural things.
How are Madhubani Art Paintings Done?
Madhubani painting is characterized by line drawings filled in with bright contrast colors and patterns. These paintings are known for representing ritual content for particular occasions, including festivals, religious rituals, etc with geometrical patterns. Madhubani art designs are known for their simplicity, for the brush and colors used are often derived from natural sources. Colors used in Madhubani painting are derived from plants and other natural sources which are combined and processed to obtain the desired colors. These colors are prepared by the artists themselves. Black color is obtained by mixing soot with cow dung, yellow from turmeric, blue from indigo, red from flower juice or red sandalwood, green from the leaves, white from rice powder and orange from palasha flowers.
Instead of contemporary brushes, cotton is wrapped around a bamboo stick to make brushes. Objects like twigs, matchsticks, and fingers are also used to create the paintings. Madhubani paintings are done on a mud wall, floors, paper, cloth, canvas, etc. Empty spaces are usually filled up with the motifs of flowers, animals, birds, and geometrical patterns, and the painting is completed with double lines drawn along the border.
Madhubani Art Painting in Modern Times
The women of the Mithila region, who are extraordinarily talented in this art form, have taken this art across geographical boundaries. Social activists are using Madhubani art as an opportunity to create awareness on social issues and to empower women. Apart from the art-loving tourists from across the world this art form has gained widespread acceptance among teenagers and young professionals too. With a range of apparel embellished, Madhubani paintings taking the market by storm. The government has taken a keen interest in the revival and promotion of this traditional art form by way of boosting this on national and international platforms.
Let’s do our bit by learning this art form to keep the legacy of Madhubani painting going strong.