The origins of Madhubani painting or Mithala Painting are shrouded in antiquity and mythology.
Madhubani painting has been done traditionally by the women of villages around the present town of Madhubani (the literal meaning of which is forests of honey) and other areas of Mithila. The painting was traditionally done on freshly plastered mud wall of huts, but now it is also done on cloth, hand-made paper and canvas.
As Madhubani painting has remained confined to a compact geographical area and the skills have been passed on through centuries, the content and the style have largely remained the same. Madhubani paintings also use two dimensional imagery, and the colors used are derived from plants. Ochre and lampblack are also used for reddish brown and black respectively.
Madhubani paintings mostly depict nature and Hindu religious motifs, and the themes generally revolve around hindu deities like Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, and 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.
Traditionally, painting was one of the skills that was passed down from generation to generation in the families of the Mithila Region, mainly by women. The painting was usually done on walls during festivals, religious events, and other milestones of the life-cycle such as birth, Upnayan (sacred thread ceremony), and marriage.
it is one of the best craft work
This art has been practised in Mithila from time immemorial. Even Vedas, purans and tantra make numerous references to it. For centuries women have decorated the walls and floors of dwellings with intricate symbolic paintings. Thus the history of Mithila painting begins as early as the love of interior decoration in human beings.
The folk paintings of Mithila are the joyous expressions of the Mithila women. The murals are distinctive in their rich and lively compositions and vibrant colours using themes from Hindu Mythology, maithil tantrik traditions and legends play significant roles in ancient life cycle ceremonies. These paintings are originally done in traditional style on auspicious occasions, and at festivals, marriages, sacred thread ceremonies and child birth ceremony on the floors and the walls of the houses. Geometrical and highly stylized, these paintings are open astrological charts, a storehouse of the wisdom of ages.
In Mithila of epic fame, the women artists use rich earth colours, red, yellow, indigo and green with goat’s milk base in their lyrical paintings of gods and goddesses. These are intended for their house goddess room and in the ‘Kohbar’ (the inner most chamber of the house where the bride and bridegroom begin their married life). This art is exclusive to women who use the most basic materials gum, fine bamboo silvers wrapped in cotton to execute these wonderfully eloquent paintings.
Since 1966, however the paintings have been developed into a commercial product and several men also joined this art. The rural folk of Mithila have found a commercial market for their festive art, with the help and patronage of the Handicrafts Handloom Export Corporation of India and the All India Handicrafts Board. And above all, Mr. Bhaskar Kulkarni, the man behind the pioneering efforts for bringing this folk on to handmade paper. The transfer of paintings from wall to paper called for a change in paints from goats milk base with indigenous pigments to commercial colours, but the same painting technique was retained, applying the paint with a small stick frayed at the end much like a cotton swab.
The Mithila paintings or Madhubani Paintings today are well known in India and abroad.
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