A Nomad's Diary - travel tales, An After Thought

The Immortal Traditional Art of Mithila: Madhubani Painting

Madhubani painting history

Did you know that to date 6 Madhubani artists have received Padma Shri Award which is the 4th highest civilian award in India! Today, Madhubani Painting is known not only in India but also globally. In fact, this painting has also got its own GI tag. That’s so awesome, right? In this article, get to know all about Madhubani Painting history, types of these paintings and more.

What is Madhubani Painting?

Madhubani Painting is also commonly called Mithila Painting. Only a few people know that traditionally this kind of painting is one of the ‘Bheet Chitra’ styles. Earlier, these paintings were made after a mixture of soil & cow dung was coated and dried on the house walls. As per the experts, the tradition of painting this kind of art was passed on from one generation to another. On three occasions these paintings were mainly drawn, during any important festival or occasion in house, in the prayer room and in the newly wedded couple’s room. These paintings mainly depict the dynamism of the relation between man and nature. Having said this, the most common subjects of these paintings are Gods & Goddesses.

In the olden days, designs similar to it were also seen in Rangoli patterns and Mehendi designs. Today, these paintings are not restricted to the walls. Madhubani painting designs are also seen as wall art, printed in women clothing, home furnishings and more. The most recent addition being Madhubani painted masks. The demand for these elegantly painted COVID protection masks is surging in the market.

Madhubani Painting or Mithila Painting history
Madhubani Painting or Mithila Painting history

Madhubani Painting History

The roots of the origin of these Mithila paintings can be traced back to the Mithila region of ancient times. This region now largely spread across the Indo-Nepal border. However, the artists of Madhubani town in Bihar are the key contributors to the preservation and spread of this traditional art form on a global scale. Mithila during the Ramayana time was ruled by King Janak whose daughter was Sita. King Janak conducted a swayamvar for Sita’s marriage in which the prince of many different kingdoms came as suitors. At the end of this swayamvar, Lord Ram married Goddess Sita. On the occasion of their wedding, King Janak ordered all his kingdom people to decorate their houses. This is when the locals of the Mithila region painted their house walls with Madhubani painting. Since then this art form is made on any auspicious occasion of this region.

How these paintings came into the limelight is yet another amazing story. It is said that around 1934, a massive earthquake jolted this region. A British officer, William Archer who had come to review the damage noticed these beautiful paintings done on the walls of the kaccha houses. He took some photographs of this novel style of painting for him and wrote an article about the same afterwards. This is when Madhubani Painting or Mithila Painting was formally introduced to the world.

How many types of Madhubani paintings are there?

There are five vivid styles of Mithila Painting namely Bharni, Kachni, Tantrik, Godna and Kohbar. In Kachni style, minimal use of colours takes place. The empty spaces are filled with distinct patterns. Shading is not given only by patterns the effect is given. In contrary to this, in the Bharni Madhubani painting, the use of many bright colours is there. Godna Mithila paintings are made within big circles similar to Mandala. This style uses both bright colours and patterns for turning this style of Madhubani painting eye-catching.

Kohbar paintings seem to be a more detailed form of Bharni Madhubani paintings
Kohbar paintings seem to be a more detailed form of Bharni Madhubani paintings

Tantrik style has patterns mostly inspired by symbols that are used as protection and well being of home and its people like Shree Yantra and more. It does not have extensive use of colours just like the Kachni style. Lastly, Kohbar paintings seem to be a more detailed form of Bharni Madhubani paintings. In this, stories from the lives of Ram-Sita and Lord Krishna are depicted in a detailed fashion as if the particular event is being narrated in the painting itself. Kachni, Bharni and Tantrik styles of Mithila painting were done mostly by Brahmin and Kayastha women in the olden days.

Love reading about art then you might also like to read about the Beautiful Havelis of Mandawa.

Material used for Madhubani Painting

Traditionally, Madhubani or Mithila paintings were done on walls. With the changing times, the local artists adapted it on paper. For the same, they use specially made handmade paper and the colours are all-natural ones. The colours are made from coloured stones, flowers, leaves, turmeric etc. For application purpose too, brushes are not used as such instead matchsticks or wooden sticks are used. However, for the ease of beginners in Madhubani painting, artificial colours, brushes and different pens have also become very common.

Final Thoughts!

Hope you liked reading this informative article about Madhubani Painting history, its different styles and the material used for making the same. Do share your thoughts or work in the comments section below!

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(1) Comment

  1. […] answer to this query is that Madhubani and Gond paintings are not the same. In fact, these two art forms have few clear cut differentiating […]

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