An article on Madhubani Art from an Australian School Website
Centuries old, this art is done mainly by the females of the family, and is a part of the daily ritual. It is believed that every morning the gods come invisibly to the household to bless the members of the family and to bring more prosperity. So this art started as a daily welcome painting for the Gods by decorating the outside of the house, the walls or the floor.
The walls and floors of the house were coated with cow dung and mud paste. When it dried it gave a perfect dark background to the bright paintings done with white rice paste. The diluted cow dung is also a natural antiseptic which is why it is valued as a floor and wall covering anyway - regardless of whether any one was going to paint on it!
During the Bihar famine of 1964-65 some of these women began to reproduce their pictures on handmade paper as their art work was being noticed by the urban people and the painted walls could not be moved to their living room. In this way, the Madhubani people with help from the All-India Handicrafts Board, have managed to supplement their income by providing a desired product. It is a real life Technology and Enterprise project.
To give the same effect to the paper, the artists still coat the handmade paper with a thin layer of diluted cow dung. This helps in the absorption of colours as well as gives the desired shades of colours.
Even in the more recent work on paper, the themes are normally the Hindu Gods and Goddesses and stories from Hindu mythology.
Initially all vegetable dyes were used for the paintings but today with the changes over time and because of the easy availability many artists now use acrylic colours as well.
- The figures are recognizable by a face in profile while the rest of the body faces the front.
- The face has one very large eye and a bumpy sort of nose coming out of the forehead.
- The figure outlines are drawn as a double line with diagonal hatching between them.
- The borders are highly decorated - either geometrically or with ornate floral patterns.
- Clothing also is highly decorated with geometrical, floral or even animal patterns.
- The drawings of animals are easily recognised for what they are, but again tend to be very stylized