Updated: Jul 6, 2022
Paintings and art frequently reflect the culture and tradition of the location from which they originate, which is not a new discovery. They frequently reflect the era in which the work was created. A historic art style rarely becomes a reflection of contemporary times and challenges. However, a journey through the Madhubani district's Highway 52 or Ranti village in Bihar will show you how Madhubani art, which dates back roughly 2500 years, is still alive and well. Not only that, but it has also saved an entire forest and brought attention to some extremely important women's issues! Take a look at Madhubani paintings' history and how they've changed through time.
About Madhubani Painting
Madhubani painting is one of India's most well-known art genres. It is known as Mithila or Madhubani art since it is practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar and Nepal. These paintings are known for portraying ceremonial material for specific events, such as festivals, religious ceremonies, and so on, and are often distinguished by complicated geometrical patterns. Plants and other natural sources are used to create the colors used in Madhubani paintings. These hues are typically vivid, with pigments such as lampblack and ochre used to create black and brown, respectively. Objects such as twigs, matchsticks, and even fingertips are utilized to make paintings instead of modern brushes.
History of Madhubani Painting
Madhubani paintings are native to Bihar's Mithila region. The Hindu epic Ramayana has some of the first references to the Madhubani painting, when King Janaka, Sita's father, commissions Madhubani paintings for his daughter's wedding. The paintings began to adorn the homes of the region as the knowledge was passed down from generation to generation. These paintings were practiced by the women of the hamlet on the walls of their different homes. Their paintings commonly described their feelings, hopes, and dreams.
Madhubani paintings became a feature of celebrations and important occasions such as weddings over time. As many modern Indian artists carried the art to the world stage, this art gradually drew the attention of art experts. Handmade paper, fabric, and canvas quickly replaced the traditional base of plastered mud walls. Because the paintings are limited to a specific geographical area, the themes and styles are more or less the same.
The uniqueness of Madhubani Painting
Mithila or Madhubani paintings are still created today with fingers and twigs, as well as matchsticks and pen nibs. Bright colors are usually utilized in these paintings, which have a rice paste outline as a framework. In these paintings, there are very few blank spots. If a border is present, it is decorated with geometric and floral motifs. The paintings are made with natural dyes. For example, black is made from charcoal and soot, yellow is made from turmeric extract, red is made from sandalwood, blue is made from indigo, and so on.
Figures with highly defined, wide fish-like eyes and pointy noses are common in Madhubani paintings. Natural elements like fish, parrots, elephants, turtles, the sun, moon, bamboo tree, and lotus are frequently featured in these paintings. These paintings have geometric patterns that frequently represent love, courage, dedication, fertility, and prosperity. Scenes from mythology such as the Ramayana have also been shown in this ancient art genre, including wedding rituals, religious rituals, and many cultural events such as festivals.
How to make Madhubani Painting?
In the current situation, Madhubani artists use colors that are readily available in the market, making their work easier. The process of creating Madhubani begins with the selection of a figure, which is then sketched freehand on the canvas. The double line border, beautiful floral patterns, abstract deity figures, and projecting eyes of the action figures are all common features of Madhubani paintings. Once you've finished the figure, you can move on to the next step. Bright colors are chosen, and paint is then filled inside the figure, with sparkling paints utilized to paint the figure's zari or borders.
The figures will be given the outlines later. Borders are usually added to Madhubani paintings and consist of a double line filled with paint or patterns.
When the painting is finished, it is inserted into the two-dimensional frame. For example, the jharokha is made in such a way that the Madhubani painting, which is done on paper or canvas, must be placed between the jharokha, and thus the jharokha with Madhubani art is completed.
Madhubani Paintings in Modern Times
Many women in Bihar's Ranti village still perform Madhubani painting. Karpuri Devi, sister-in-law of well-known artists Mahasundari Devi, Dulari, and Mahalaxmi are three generations of local women who have worked hard to keep the art form alive by training and teaching other women in the village how to make Mithila painting a way of life and carry on the tradition. The three women's work has been commissioned by the Indian government and has also been displayed in Japan's Mithila museum.
These women want to use art to empower other women and raise awareness about topics like education and eve-teasing. They are encouraging their students to paint on subjects that are important to their hearts, such as folk tales they may have heard as children or the current status of women in society. It's fascinating to see how paintings created by women to reflect religion, traditions, and societal conventions are now being used by them to express themselves.