Madhubani Painting: Check History, Features of Madhubani Art

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 1, 2023, 14:48

Madhubani paintings (Mithila paintings) were traditionally created by women from different communities in the Mithila region of the Indian subcontinent. Madhubani is also a fundamental centre for exporting these paintings.

Features of Madhubani Paintings 

  • This form of mural painting was widely practised throughout the Bihar region. Recent developments led to "Madhubani art" being used in conjunction with "Mithila paintings."
  • These paintings were traditionally painted on freshly plastered clay walls and cottage floors but are now also painted on handmade paper cloth and canvas.
  • Madhubani paintings are made from rice flour paste. Traditional Madhubani paintings remain confined to a compact geographic area, as the skills have been passed down for centuries, and content and style remain largely the same.
  • Madhubani paintings have a GI (Geographical Indication) status. These paintings use two-dimensional images, and the colours used are derived from plants. 
  • These paintings depict the scenes of particular occasions, such as festivals and religious ceremonies.
  • Madhubani paintings mainly depict the connection between people and nature, as well as scenes of gods and ancient epics.
  • Natural objects such as the sun and moon and sacred plants such as Tulsi are frequently depicted.
  • In these paintings, spaces are usually not left empty. The gaps are filled with flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric paintings.

How Madhubani Paintings Saved Forests in 2012

Shashthi Nath Jha, head of the NGO Gram Vikas Parishad, launched an initiative in 2012 to prevent logging trees in Bihar in the name of road improvement and development. It proved to be an effective way to make villagers aware of the impacts of climate change and global warming.

More than 100 trees were decorated with Madhubani paintings. The villagers used synthetic paints to make the artwork last longer. Still, none of the trees was cut down, as they were decorated with religious and spiritual symbols, such as the shape of various gods and mythical scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata. 

Madhubani Art in the Present Day

Madhubani paintings are still created by many women in the village of Ranti in Bihar. Karpuri Devi, the sister-in-law of famous artists Mahasundari Devi and Dulari Devi, has made great efforts to maintain the art form by educating other women in the village. She teaches them how to make these paintings and depicts her way of life.

The works of the three women were commissioned by the Government of India and were exhibited at the Mithila Museum in Japan. These women aim to empower other women by portraying issues such as education and raising awareness. They encourage students to draw on subjects such as folk tales they may have heard or the status of women today. It is interesting to note how the paintings were initially created by women to represent religions, traditions, and social norms and are now being used to represent women's voices.

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FAQs about Madhubani Painting

The Madhubani paintings are famous in which state?

The Madhubani paintings are a rich part of Bihari folk craft.

Which state are Madhubani paintings most commonly attributed to?

Madhubani Art is practised in the Mithila region of India and Nepal. It is named after the Madhubani district of Bihar, India, where it originated from. 

Which are the most popular Madhubani painting designs?

Some of the most popular Madhubani painting designs are the Peacock Madhubani Painting and Radha Krishna Madhubani Painting

What's peculiar about Madhubani art?

Madhubani paintings are made with fingers, twigs, matches, and nibs. These paintings usually use bright colours framed by outlines of rice paste. They rarely have blanks. If there is a border, it will be decorated with a geometric or floral pattern. Natural dyes are used for painting, for example, charcoal and carbon black for black, turmeric extracts for yellow, sandalwood for red, and indigo for blue.