India being one of the oldest existing civilizations in the world today is blessed with rich culture and heritage. Right from the medieval period there prevailed diverse cultural diversities in the form of dances, languages, religions, people, their customs, traditions, colorful festivals, arts and crafts. Every state of India has its own distinctive culture and tradition.
Indian art and craft is well known and is well renowned all over the world. The history of Indian crafts dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The major art and craft of India includes Indian handicrafts like paintings, sculptures, textile, jewelry, stone and woodcrafts.
Madhubani is a hilly forest terrain in the state of Bihar in Eastern India. Traditionally artists from this area are mainly trained in folk art. ‘Madhu’ means honey and ‘bans’ is forest. It is the combination of nature and the beauty of the vibrant colors that makes it an elegant and appealing form of painting that never fails to attract.
Traditionally made by women, the paintings are made with three dimensional imageries using vegetable colors on cow dung treated paper. These Paintings are an indigenous art form of the quaint villages Madhubani and Mithila in Bihar. The tradition of painting walls for beautification of dwellings in Mithila is believed to have survived from the epic period. The great sage Tulsidas gives a vivid account of Mithila being decorated for the marriage of Sita with Ram. They paint figures from nature and myth on household and village walls to mark the seasonal festivals, for special events of the life-cycle.
When marriages are being arranged within families as is the tradition in most Hindu families, the women get together to prepare intricately designed wedding proposals , and the technique of painting is safely and zealously guarded by the women of this village, for it is to be passed on by a mother to her daughter. The women of this village have been practicing this art form for centuries but it came to the forefront only in the 1960s, when a drought hit the area and people had to think of an alternative non agricultural source of earning. Selling these traditional paintings on handmade paper was the best alternative. And today Madhbani paintings have become one of the most celebrated Folk Arts of the world.
Madhubani art is inspired by the urge of Invocation of holy spirits, the divine power the God and their creation of blissful nature, flora and fauna, the animals, birds, fishes. The paintings are normally depicted on mud walls during family events, ceremonies, marriages and also daily life. Bright colours depicting mythological scriptures, epics, legends make Madhubani a very attractive art form.
This ethnic style of painting is one of the best preserved art forms in India. Dating back to the 16th century, Madhubani paintings have been traditionally a women’s domain. In the festive season and family occasions the women in a Madhubani family used to paint the walls and floors with respect to the occasion at hand.
Madhubani art has vibrant colors with well defined human / animal objects, body parts, limbs, decorative traditional costumes. Each artwork is distinctly bordered artistically.
The Madhubani designs are even woven on silk and cotton sarees but essentially these paintings have remained a folk art.
The main themes of Madhubani paintings contain images of Hindu deities such as Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Also you will be able to find beautiful Madhubani paintings of sun, moon and tulsi or the sacred basil plant revered very much by the Hindus. Scenes of royal courts and social events such as celebration of wedding are also beautifully depicted in Madhubani paintings.
The main categories in Madhubani paintings are:
Traditional, Monochrome, Tattoo, Contemporary and Animals and Birds
The art of Madhubani painting requires skill and implies a certain technique. This technique requires simple raw materials that are easily located in villages such as bamboo sticks, natural colors and cotton.
Vegetable colors are used for painting. Turmeric, rice powder, KumKum, juices of certain brightly colored flowers, henna leaves, lime , soot etc, are used to make these paints. And the colours are usually deep red, green, blue, black, light yellow, pink and lemon.
The painting is done by wrapping cotton around a bamboo stick which serves as a brush. Then the brush is dipped into colors and applied on to the fabric. No shading technique is used in these paintings. The outline is done with double lines. The gaps between the two lines are filled with cross or straight lines. Colors are not used in linear paintings.
Madhubani paintings are very pretty and attractive and well recognized by their distinct style of painting. Colorful and vivid in their description, the Madhubani art form is appreciated for its beauty. Madhubani paintings add a dash of vibrancy and enhance the look, when used as home decoration items. The paintings are an expression of day-to-day experiences and beliefs. It is a traditional art that is symbolic, simple and expressive. The treatment of color is beautifully done. The themes of daily activities, the nature, flora and fauna and the imaginative depiction of Hindu Gods and goddesses are the most prominent subjects. Madhubani paintings are characterized by the vibrant and bold use of colors and traditional geometric patterns that generally supports the main theme.
Some of the main attributes of all the Madhubani paintings is the double line border or the ornate floral patterns, abstract figures of deities with the bulging prominent eyes and rounded figures. Since this intricate skill is handed down the generations, traditional designs and patterns are widely maintained.
Some printed resources on Madhubani paintings:
* Anand, Mulk Raj, Madhubani Painting
* Brown, Carolyn Henning, "Contested Meanings: Tantra and the Poetics of Mithila Art," American Ethnologist 23, 4
* Jayakar, Pupul, The Earth Mother: Legends, Ritual Arts, and Goddesses of India (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1990)