Madhubani paintings are one of India’s oldest and most distinctive traditional art forms. Madhubani paintings are a 2500-year-old folk art that is believed to have originated during the Ramayana, when king Janaka invited the people to photograph his daughter Sita’s wedding to prince Rama. During festivals, ceremonies, or special events, women would hand painted these paintings on the walls and floors of their homes. This kind of painting, also known as Mithila art, started in the Mithila region of Bihar and has since spread throughout Bihar and Nepal. After the earthquake in the Mithila region in 1934 caused severe devastation, a British officer named William G. Archer went to Madhubani district to investigate the damage. He spotted paintings on the interior walls of the residences that were similar to the work of Western artists such as Miro and Picasso while inspecting them. He photographed these paintings and wrote about them in an art magazine, bringing Madhubani painting to the attention of the wider population.
Main Themes in Madhubani Art
Popular Hindu deities such as Radha and Krishna, Shiva, Ganesha, Saraswati, and Laxmi are frequently depicted in mythological figures and scenarios from sacred texts.
Madhubani painting beautifully depicts scenes from regular rural Indian life, from harvests and markets to the royal court and children playing. Wedding ceremonies, with their messages of love and fertility, are particularly popular.
Madhubani paintings are defined by the beauty and profusion of nature. The sun, the moon, birds and animals, the sacred Tulsi plant, and Banyan trees are among the most popular images.
Preparation of Natural Colours
Madhubani artisans make their own paints and equipment out of locally sourced natural materials. Here are the basic processes in making a Madhubani painting, from extracting juice from flowers to making brushes out of bamboo sticks: To preserve the vibrant colour of the natural pigments, the paper is treated with cow dung before being painted. For the black outline, cow excrement is combined with charcoal and water. The artist then draws the detailed black outline with a bamboo stick, which cannot be erased or changed once it has started. This black outline completely fills the paper, leaving a very little white area. Finally, the artist prepares each colour by hand. The Aparajita flower is used for blue, bougainvillea is used for pink, flat bean leaves are used for green, turmeric is used for yellow, and rice powder is used for white.
Madhubani art in present times
Many women in Bihar’s Ranti village still perform Madhubani painting. Karpuri Devi, sister-in-law of well-known artists Mahasundari Devi, Dulari, and Mahalaxmi are three generations of local women who have worked hard to keep the art form alive by training and teaching other women in the village how to make Mithila painting a way of life and carry on the tradition. The three women’s work has been commissioned by the Indian government and has also been displayed in Japan’s Mithila museum. These women want to use art to empower other women and raise awareness about topics like education and eve-teasing. They are encouraging their students to paint on subjects that are important to their hearts, such as folk tales they may have heard as children or the current status of women in society. It’s fascinating to see how paintings created by women to reflect religion, traditions, and societal conventions are now being used by them to express themselves.