Friday, January 22, 2010

5 Facts About Madhubani Painting


Fact One
Madhubani art is practised around Mithila and Madhubani areas of Bihar, India (close to the Nepal-India border). Madhubani literally means "forests of honey" !


Fact Two
 
Traditionally this art was practised by women only to decorate their huts during religious and important occasions. Nowadays men have also taken up this artform and paintings are done on paper, cloth, canvas etc. But even though women in the villages around Madhubani have been practicing their folk art for centuries, the world at large has come to know about these women and to consider them to be "artists" only in the last thirty years. Even now, most of their work remains anonymous. T
he women, some of them illiterate, are in any case reluctant to consider themselves individual producers of "works of art" and only a few of them mark the paintings with their own name.
Kohabar", mariage ritual wall painting, in "L'art du Mithila" by Yves Véquaud, photo Edouard Boubat, Les Presses de la Connaissance 1976


Fact Three
Among the first modern outsiders to document the tradition of Madhubani painting were William and Mildred Archer. He was a British civil servant assigned to the district during the colonial era. The Archers obtained some drawings on paper that the women painters were using as aids to memory. Works that the Archers collected went to the India Records Office in London (now part of the British Library) where a small number of specialists could study them as creative instances of India's folk art.
What led the women painters to share their work with the larger world was a major ecological and economic crisis that resulted from a prolonged drought in 1966-68 that struck Madhubani and the surrounding region of Mithila. In order to create a new source of non-agricultural income, the All-India Handicrafts Board encouraged the women artists to produce their traditional paintings on handmade paper for commercial sale.
Few women artists who made this artform famous are Ganga Devi, Sita Devi, Shanti Devi, Baua Devi.

Ganga Devi

Sita Devi, photo Hervé Perdriolle, Jitwapur 1997




Fact Four
The colors used were traditionally derived from natural sources like plants, charcoal soot, ochre etc. Black color is obtained by mixing soot with cow dung.Yellow color is obtained from turmeric or pollen or lime and the milk of banyan leaves. Blue from Indigo. Red from Kusum flower juice, red sandalwood or rose. Green from the leaves of apple trees, White from rice powder, Orange from palasha flowers.





Wall painting made by Yashoda Devi, Madhubani, Bihar



Draft sketch made by Ganga Devi in her Notebook


Anonymous wall painting, Madhubani, Bihar


Painting by Ganga Devi


Fact Five 
Madhubani paintings mostly depict nature and Hindu religious motifs, and the themes generally revolve around Hindu deities like Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati. Natural objects like the sun, the moon and religious plants like Tulsi are also widely painted, along with scenes from the royal court and social events like weddings. Generally no space is left empty ; the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds and even geometric designs. Objects depicted in the walls of kohabar ghar (where newly wed couple see each other in the first night) are symbols of sexual pleasure and procreation.Legend says that this artform originated during the time of Ramayana when King Janak commissioned artists to paint pictures of his daughter Sita getting married to Rama




Painting of Krishna by Ganga Devi



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