The culture and art forms of India are so varied and distinctive that it is awe inspiring that these have passed on for generations where the techniques and materials used are in harmony with nature. The Madhubani/Mithila style of art can be traced to the time of the Ramayana. It is believed that King Janaka asked all houses to be painted with various designs to celebrate the wedding of his daughter, Sita, to Lord Rama and this is how this famous art form came into being.
Madhubani, part of Mithila region of Nepal and the northern part of Bihar, seems to have continued this simple but stunning art form for over 2,500 years. But for a tragedy we probably would not have discovered this art-form! The earthquake of 1934 that devastated this region brought to light paintings on the walls of houses and the British officer William Archer was awe struck with the beauty of these paintings; the second tragedy – the famine of 1960s – proved to be a catalyst in reviving the art form when Womenfolk began to display their artistic capabilities – as a means to generate income –by using paper and cloth for painting. The Madhubani painting tradition is dominated by Women and little wonder that so many national award winners are womenfolk who have taken this art form to the next level.
As in the case of other Indian art forms, religious and mythological figures are depicted in various paintings and the celebration of nature is another recurring theme. However, a unique feature is the use of geometrical patterns that are filled in the open areas on the canvas. A traditional Madhubani Painting uses handmade paper on which cow dung is applied that gives a similar feel as the walls on which they were originally painted on. All colours used are natural and it is interesting to know that neem leaves, milk from banyan leaves, turmeric, kusum flowers all go into contributing to the final Madhubani Painting.
While Madhubani Paintings in themselves are unique and can be easily discerned there are subtle variations that only add to the aura - suffice it to say that the colour forms with rich and intricate patterns depicting gods and goddesses (Bharni) or the fine colour paintings depicting flora and fauna and the local heroes like Raja Salhesh (Godna) as well as paintings depicting fish, tortoises or other animals and plants depicting fertility (Kohbar) are as beautiful as the monochromatic or two coloured paintings (Katchni)
Like other art forms of India the Madhubani painting have the GI (Geographical Indicator) tag which means that such art forms are from a small and defined geographical area and for me that is reason enough to have atleast one painting in both my home and office cabin!.
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