Posted on February 03 2015
Madhubani Paintings - Art from the forests
The innocence of tribes and the naivety of village folk can often be felt in the objects they make and use. The costumes they wear, the jewellery they adorn themselves with, the pottery, vessels and tools they use, their huts , in fact their entire lifestyle ooze out simplicity and ease.
It is this minimalism and plainness of their life which reflects in their art too. One such expression can be seen in Madhubani paintings – the pride of rural Bihar.
Madhubani paintings come from the Mithila region which lies in the state of Bihar in India and partly in the neighbouring country of Nepal. Mithila is believed to be the kingdom of King Janak, father of Godess Sita from the Hindu epic Ramayan. As per Hindu mythology, King Janak asked the women of Mithila to paint their houses and surroundings for Sita’s wedding to Lord Rama. These paintings are what we now call us Madhubani paintings. Madhubani literally means forests of honey!
Since then, for every festival or wedding, women picked up brushes and painted their homes with these unique paintings. The paintings were exclusively made by women. They used brushes made of grass and twigs and also their own fingers. Natural and vegetable dyes were used as paint. The paintings mainly depicted deities from ancient epics and also the Sun and Moon. Village life also holds prominence in these paintings including designs of flowers, birds and plants specially the religious plant called Tulsi. Geometric designs are widely used too.
However, this art was little known to the world outside Madhubani. Interestingly, the paintings were accidently discovered by a British officer, William G Archer. In 1934 there was an earthquake in the region and in the debris he found out this rare and beautiful art.
After this discovery, Madhubani art was marketed to different parts of India and to the world.
The beauty of the Madhubani paintings lies in its vibrant colours and very vernacular figures and depictions. The images which find prominence in them are peacock, fish, dancing women, cows and geometric shapes. Lord Krishna is a very popular subject in these paintings. Also festivals and life occasions are found in Madhubani paintings.
Some of these illustrations here showcase the beauty of Madhubani paintings. In figure 1 and 2, depiction of peacock and fish can be observed, respectively. The central theme is the main subject surrounded by smaller drawings around it. Mostly trees, leaves and flowers are the motifs used around the main theme.
In figure 3 and 4 we can see portrayal of lord Krishna and in figure 5 we can see women doing household chores.
In modern day Madhubani art is marketed as paintings and home decor items. Sometimes designers take inspiration from this art to design Indian wear too.