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5 reasons to check out Madhubani Paintings: Indian Traditional Art!

Art provides great help to delve into the cultural aspect of a region. India has an enormous diversity of cultures which is evident from different art forms from different regions. Madhubani paintings or Mithila paintings got its name from its geographic origin in Norther Bihar especially in the Mithila region. This unique style was traditionally used by women to paint the walls and floors of their huts to seek blessings from the divine power, celebrate occasions like religious festivals, marriages, births etc. the paintings done on walls are called ‘Bhitti chitra’ and the ones done on the floor are called ‘Aripana’. It is a decorative art form drawn using intricate geometrical patterns and lots of colours.

Ancient History

It is said that the Madhubani paintings existed from Ramayana period. The exact source of its origin is unknown but it is believed that in the Treta Yug, when King Janaka was the ruler of Mithila, he ordered to paint the walls of his kingdom on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Sita to Lord Rama. The entire wedding ceremony is believed to be painted in the form of Madhubani paintings by the artists during that time.

Present context

This painting style was discovered by British officer William G. Archer in 1934 when he visited the village of Mithila which was badly devastated by a massive earthquake. He found these paintings on the inner walls of the houses. He documented and wrote about them in an art magazine which gained them popularity.

No sketches

Madhubani artists use bold hues to make the geometric drawings and floral patterns. No sketches are done before the final works, that’s what makes the works extremely natural and fascinating. The artists draw using fingers, match sticks, twigs, pen nibs etc.

Various painting styles and designs

These paintings have different styles and designs accordingly.

  1. Bharni – Bharni means filling. In this style the outlines of images are drawn in bold and dark with black. The images are filled with bright colours like red, yellow, orange etc.
  2. Kachni – Kachni means line art. In this style, elaborate line paintings are made. The images are filled with closely drawn parallel lines or small dots. The thickness of the line depends on the design. Mainly black and vermillion colours are used.
  3. Godhana – Godhana means tattoo. In this style repeated images are arranged in parallel lines, concentric circles or rectangles to form various patterns. The images are drawn in black but some are also filled with colours.
  4. Tantra style – It is related to Tantra. In this style, the colours and descriptions given in the tantric texts are followed. Pictures of Hindu deities and yantras such as Shree Yantra, Shri Bhairava Yantra, etc. are depicted.

This variety of painting styles in one artform is rare which makes it precious.

Themes and symbols

The themes for the paintings differ depending on the function or the event that they are painted for. However, the central theme remains love and fertility. There are three main themes in Madhubani art; religion, social scenes, elements of nature.

  1. Religious – Hindu mythological figures, scenes from religious texts are very common subjects. These paintings mainly depict mythological events which mainly revolve around the themes of Hindu deities like Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Kali, etc.
  2. Social scenes – From harvests and markets to the royal court and children playing, Madhubani painting beautifully renders scenes from daily rural Indian life. Wedding ceremonies are especially sought-after, with messages of love and fertility.
  3. Elements of Nature – The beauty and abundance of nature is an essential value of Madhubani paintings. Some of the most beloved images are the sun, the moon, birds and animals, the sacred Tulsi plant and Banyan trees.

Madhubani paintings are drawn in accordance with a fixed theme and accordingly, symbols, lines, patterns are drawn. For instance, the symbol fish stands for fertility, good luck, and procreation whereas peacocks usually indicate love, religion, and romance; serpents stand for divine protectors and so on.

Materials and colours

In the past, the paintings were done on walls prepared by applying mud and cow dung, but now they are also made on handmade paper. Paper is made by mixing cow dung, neem juice and Multani mitti which gives the paper a slight yellow appearance resembling mud wall. It enhances the durability of the painting by protecting them from termites and insects. Before starting the painting, women usually do a prayer to the deities so that their favour accompanies them in their objectives or rituals. For its elaboration, the cotton wrapped on a bamboo stick is used as a brush. The colours that are applied are prepared manually by the artists. Some of the natural sources are: black by mixing soot with cow dung; yellow with turmeric; white with rice powder, green from the leaves of woodapple tree, blue from indigo or aparajita flower, red from kusum flower or red sandalwood and orange from palash flower.
Such an ancient artform, where the paintings are thoughtfully made according to the occasions, where every material for the artwork is organic gives perfect justice to the culture of that region also the culture of our country!
Having such colourful paintings at your place will definitely make it as well as your life fresh, colourful and culturally rich!


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