Mithila Painting or Madhubani Painting is a form of art that has developed a niche market within the country and across borders as well. These eye catching paintings are characterized by their tribal motifs and bright earthy colours. Madhubani, which literally translates to ‘forests of honey’, originated in Mithila, Bihar.
Initially, the womenfolk of the village drew the paintings on the walls of their home, as an illustration of their thoughts, hopes and dreams. The traditional base of freshly plastered mud wall of huts has now been replaced by cloth, handmade paper and canvas. Madhubani paintings make use of colors that are derived mainly from plants. 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. Almost anything can be used as a brush- cotton wrapped around a bamboo stick, fingers, nib-pens, twigs and matchsticks. The colours are applied flat with less or no shading and no empty space is left.
The themes on which these paintings are based include nature and mythological events. One can also find paintings based on scenes from the royal courts and social events, like weddings. The first reference to the Maithili painting of Bihar dates back to the time of Ramayana, when King Janaka ordered the paintings to be created for his daughter, Sita’s, wedding.
Mithila painting amuses art lovers in almost all parts of the world especially USA, UK, Russia and most of Asia. The art form is evolving- rural touch is retained to keep the originality but fusion is also becoming popular day by day. Artists like Sita Devi and Ganga Devi were recognized nationally and internationally for their great contribution in adding to the creativity in ever evolving mithila painting.
Did you know?
Over the past few years, Bihar’s Madhubani district has witnessed rampant deforestation and loss of green cover. To tackle this, the women and girls of Madhubani have used their traditional art form, Madhubani, to help save thousands of trees in the region from being cut down. The trunks of these trees are first painted with lime, which helps protect the tree from insects. On the white lime background, these women and girls then paint images of Rama, Sita, Krishna, Buddha and Mahavira, among other gods and goddesses, transforming each of these trees into a temple in itself, thus ensuring that the trees will never be cut down!
Cover photo credits: Shatika Blog