Madhubani Painting – Folk Art of India

A live tradition, vibrant and deep rooted into people’s blood, folk art reveals a massive variety of form and theme. Her ten-twelve thousand years old creative culture and a wide-spread art geography apart, India has hundreds of ethnic groups scattered from north to south and east to west, each with its own art form representing its taste, needs, aspirations, aims, joys, sorrows and struggles. Regional peculiarities, nature around and a different pattern of day-today life apart, their art reveals each group’s ethnic distinction and creative talent. Not in the ‘word’, these primitive peoples discovered in the ‘form’ their diction which gave expression to their joy, jubilation and intrinsic warmth and announced their rejection of violence, eroticism and the ugly.

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Bihar, home to the famous Madhubani paintings. Originally (and even now, locally) called Mithila paintings, the art from was practised in the once connected regions of Bihar and Nepal, that were together known as Mithila.
Madhubani artists have continued to live in the same geographical area for centuries, eventually earning their painting style a GI status.

Similar to many folk art of India, this art form was created by women, to decorate the walls and floors of their homes, before eventually being adapted to paper and canvas. They also predominantly depicts natural elements. A characteristic element of this folk painting style is the minimal negative space, and every element being filled with a repeat pattern of lines or dots.

Wall of Government office in Madhubani Bihar

Madhubani paintings is a popular, non-tribal paintings. The themes of the illustrations are often linked to Hindu mythologies. According to tradition, the pictorial practice was born at the time of Râmâyana, when King Janak asked artists to paint for the marriage of his daughter Sita with the Hindu god Rama.

Origin of Madhubani Paintings

After widespread destruction due to the earthquake in the Mithila region in 1934, a British officer, William G. Archer visited Madhubani district and inspected the damage caused by it. While inspecting, he discovered paintings on the interior walls of the houses similar to the work of Western artists such as Miro and Picasso. He took some pictures of these paintings and wrote about the paintings in an art magazine, thus Madhubani painting also became known in the outside world.

Mithila region has an agricultural economy but was crippled by the drought of 1966 to 1968. The All India Handicrafts Board encouraged the women of Mithila to make paintings on paper for commercial sale. Since then the women of the region have started making paintings on handmade paper and created a new source of income.

Kohbar by Sita Devi

During the traditional times, women used to craft mesmerising patterns of Madhubani art on the walls of huts in the village. It was a custom that was believed to bring luck and prosperity to the newlyweds.

Since ancient times, women of the Mithila region have painted the walls and floors of their homes with Madhubani paintings to celebrate occasions such as religious festivals, births, and marriages.

The paintings on the walls are known as Bhitti Chitra and the paintings on the floor are known as AripanaThe colors used in Madhubani art are made from tree bark, flowers, leaves, and other natural sources.

Madhubani painings on Wall

Now for commercial purposes, Madhubani paintings are also done by women on handmade paper, cloth, and canvas, and men are also involved to meet the growing demand.

Types of Madhubani Paintings

Bharni Style

Bharni means filling. In the Bharni style, the outlines of the images are drawn in bold and dark black and the images are filled with bright colors like red, yellow, orange, etc.The main subject matter of such paintings were the stories and life events from the religious epics of Hindu deities such as Krishna, Durga, Kali, and Vishnu.

Paintings by artist Chandra Bhushan Kumar

Kachni Style

Kachni means line art. In the Kachni style, elaborate line paintings are made. The images are filled with closely drawn parallel lines or small dots. The thickness of the lines depends on the design.

Mainly black and vermilion (brilliant red) colors are used to make the Kachni style paintings.

This special form of Madhubani art is depicts the characteristics such as fertility and life. These types of Madhubani Paintings can be seen on the wall art of Kohbar Ghar (The Nuptial Chamber).

Artists that used to craft this form ensured to utilise only a solo colour throughout when craved on the paper. This was the distinctive aspect of the Kayastha style of painting.

Elephants by artist Chandra Bhushan KumarMadhubani Paintings Online Classes

Godhana Style

Godhana means tattoo. In the Godhana 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 colors.

Some Godhana style artists use cow dung washed handmade paper to make paintings.

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Also read about this art from on Google Arts & Culture:

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