Monday, May 9, 2011

Madhubani Paintings

In the Mithila region lies a small village in Bihar, an eastern state in India, called Madhubani, dotted with small clay and straw huts, and quiet with its tranquil and serene village life.  What makes this village standout is its internationally acclaimed school of folk art painting named after the village: Madhubani.  The village name itself literally translates to forests of honey.

The origin of this Asian folk art is traced back to epic periods, perhaps during the time of the Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to paint the walls at the time of the marriage of his daughter Sita, to Lord, Ram.  

Villagers had the tradition of painting walls of their newly plastered huts for the purpose of ceremonial rituals as well as for the beautification of their homes.  Creativity was personal and original and artists relied on nature and mythological figures as the main themes to be painted.  Hindu deities were given utmost importance, followed by regional flora and fauna.  

To mark the seasonal festivals, many village walls were painted according to the honored festivity on the calendar.  Life cycles, especially the rite of marriage, was given special treatment when depicted on the walls.  The asian art in khobar or the nuptial room at the brides house was decorated in such a way to bestow a blissful life on the newly married couple.  There never failed to be painted in abundance images of fertility, love, and conjugality.  

Other symbols include the moon, considered the source of heavenly nectar, the sun to fertilize and impregnate turtles to bring beneficent powers to the matrimonial alliance, parrots to symbolize the couple and fish as a mirror of fertility.  

Animals are depicted in a naturalistic form, but the human figure is painted mostly abstract and linear.  The colors are mostly simple with no shading.  For the outlines, a double line is drawn, with the gaps between the lines filled with cross lines mostly in black inc.  In very traditional paintings, the colors are all extracted from plants.  

Today, artists render their art on handmade paper, cloth and canvas.  Stories are painted to reflect the modern times and modern experiences, but still with an emphasis on preserving the old methods of painting with natural dies. 

Madhubani painting has traditionally been taught and passed on from families to newer generations and by nature the style has remained unchanged, mostly painted by the women.   Each family makes patterns and templates that they keep for the purpose of repeating the motifs in a skillful manner, in which they can produce works of art a lot faster.  

The brushes are made by wrapping a bamboo stick with cotton.  The dyes are prepared to obtain colors mostly as follows:  black is obtained by mixing soot with cow dung; yellow from tumeric or pollen or lime, and the milk of banyan leaves; blue from indigo; red from the kusam flower juice or red sandalwood; green from the leaves of the wood apple tree; white from rice powder and orange from palasha flowers.  



  1. Beautiful, I did not know about this art.


  2. It is a very unique way to make paint.

  3. I love the way that the artists make paint. I think it is very creative. In Mexico, to make the red dye, an insect called cochinilla is used. The paintings are very beautiful.

  4. I think it is interesting that they paint to express themselves religiously. In ceremonies they paint, In weddings they paint, and just to be creative they paint. I also love how they make their paint its very creative.