Mithila Art, more popularly known as MADHUBANI painting(as Madhubani is the central district of the Mithila region), is an art form from the time of Ramayana when King Janaka ordered to have the town decorated for his daughter Sita's wedding. Madhubani, literally meaning “Forest of Honey”, (‘Madhu’-honey, ‘Ban’-forest or woods), is an art form done in the “Mithila” region in Bihar & Nepal, thus it is also known as “Mithila Art”.
Mithila art provides livelihood to people confined to small geographical areas. Skills are passed on from one generation to other and the content & style have remained unchanged. Thus, Mithila Art has received GI status. This female-dominated art tradition is passed through generations from mother to daughter. In present times, whole families are involved in this art, not just the ladies of the house. This Art is still practised and kept alive by artists & their families and institutions in various districts & villages spread across the Mithila region.
There are 5 distinct types of styles, based on the artist’s community, These distinctive styles are Bharni, Kachin, Tantrik, Godna&Kohbar.
Strong characteristics of Mithila art include- the usage of vibrant natural colours, no empty spaces on the canvas, and minimal shading. Its strokes are precise & bold at the same time.
Generally, Madhubani paintings carry no marks of their creator and artists are mostly unknown. This art form is passed on from one generation to other, mainly by women.
These eye-catching paintings are for every occasion and festival. The themes, on which these paintings are based, are predominantly nature& life events and religious stories & folklore. This art depicts people, their life events (Weddings, celebrations etc), their association with nature (Tree, Forest, Sun, Moon, Tulsi etc) & deities from the ancient epics like Ramayana, Shiv Puran, Krishna Leela etc.
The Process of making the painting
The first step is to draw an artistic border & mark out the painting area. Then, the basic drawing of the scene is done. These are drawn freehand, directly by brush. Full drawing is done in double lines. Different styles of repeated patterns are used for filling. Some of these are KACHNI & BHARANI. Empty spaces are filled with flowers, leaves, trees & birds. Ornaments are highlighted to enhance the painting. In the end, colouring is done, mainly with natural colours. Eyes are completed at the end, along with small touch-ups if required.
Traditionally natural colours are used in Madhubani painting. These are made by the artisans at their homes themselves. It is a tedious process that involves grinding, extracting, cooking various elements & adding special ingredients to make it strong. Different colours are made using flowers & leaves - Peepal bark, Marigold, and Aprajit to name a few. Black is obtained from lampblack (Kohl). All these ingredients are collected from locally grown trees & plants. In Present time the synthetic colours are used a lot, along with natural colours.
Almost anything can be used as a brush from fingers, sticks & twigs to now even nib pens &matchsticks. These days primarily brushes, Nibs & markers are used.
History & Current Times
Mithila painting was unknown to the outside world until the massive earthquake of 1934 when the houses and walls tumbled down and a British colonial officer in Madhubani District, William G. Archer, discovered the painting found in the rubble. This art form has gained national and international fame since then and is much in demand by collectors.
In ancient times, The different styles of Mithila art were based on the castes of the artists. In present times, there is no difference in the basis of the caste system.
Mithila art was traditionally done on mud walls & floors of huts, but now they are also done on walls, cloth, handmade paper & canvas. In current times anything can be used as a canvas from walls, paper, and cloth to textile & apparel to lifestyle and décor products.
In Present times, various lifestyles & décor things adorned with Mithila art. In Textiles like saris, stoles, scarves to name a few. Décor & utilities like Kettles & Pots, Coasters & Trays, Runners, Bags & so on. The product range is limited to one’s imagination only.
This Art is still practised and kept alive by artists & their families and institutions in various districts & villages spread across the Mithila region.