In the year of 1934, a massive earthquake struck the state of Bihar. The then colonial officer of the Madhubani District, William G Archer found a set of Beautiful paintings on the interior walls of the homes that were damaged by the earthquake. Those paintings were the Madhubani Paintings. But the original history dates back thousands of years ago, around the time of Ramayana when King Janaka asked an artist to artistically illustrate his daughter Sita’s wedding to Prince Rama. These paintings were Madhubani Paintings or Bhitti Chitra. Madhubani paintings are also called Bhitti Chitra as they have originated in the Mithila region of the Bihar border of India & Nepal.
The word Madhubani literally means a “Forest of Honey”. Women of all classes and castes used to paint on canvas, cloth, or cow-dung-washed hand paper. They only used Natural dye and colors and the paintings were intricately designed with geometrical figures and vibrant colors. The themes of Madhubani painting varied from religious themes to mythology. A common subject in Madhubani paintings is Ardhanarishvara (a figure depicting two halves of Shiva – a synthesis of His consort Parvati – as a unification of supreme powers), Mythological characters (Ram, Sita, Hanuman, Krishna, and more), and a picture of the elephant king Ashoka. The art is also called the Mithila art because it originated in Mithila at Madhubani District. The words, Madhubani Art, Mithila art, and Mithila paintings are simultaneously and synonymously used to denote such paintings. Today, the district Madhubani is a major exporter of these paintings. India had awarded the GI or geographical indication tag to six Madhubani paintings. These paintings are notable for their two-dimensional portrayal and naturally derived colors which are used in the paintings. The artists do not leave any empty space in the paintings, they carefully fill every gap with imagery of flowers and geometric designs, and sometimes even animals.
अपनी हुनर अपने सोच कला के साथ pic.twitter.com/Q6wAedRXXz
— Remant K Mishra Madhubani Painting (@remantkumarmish) November 29, 2021
This art form still thrives in the schools of art across Mithila that keep the flame of the talent alive by teaching others, Kalakrithi, Vaidehi, Benipatti, and Gram Vikas Parishad are some of the Famous centers of Paintings.
Madhubani paintings have recently been at the center of attention for their role in environmental conservation efforts in the light of heavy deforestation. In an attempt to protect local trees from being cut down in the name of expanding roads, Shashthi Nath Jha of the Gram Vikas Parishad started the initiative as part of his NGO. These efforts have not only stopped deforestation but attempted to bring back greenery into Bihar which has one of the lowest forest covers in India.
Today Madhubani paintings are taught to and cherished by young artists who take a genuine interest in drawing Madhubani art. These new artists are more interested in Madhubani art like Radha Krishna Madhubani painting and Peacock Madhubani painting. Drawing Madhubani art can be learned from the schools of art that are trained in the Mithila art. Radha Krishna Madhubani painting is in fact the religious side of the Madhubani art whereas the Peacock Madhubani painting shows the more secular and man to nature relationship that is depicted in the Mithila paintings. While the form of art can be portrayed on any substrate such as walls, clothes, paper, utensils; modern artists are adapting the art form and putting on different kinds of articles.
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Madhubani Paintings have received worldwide attention for their cultural representation and artistic quality. With its portrayals of themes of religion, love, and fertility, the art not only displays the social structure of the land but also its cultural identity. Expressing the creativity and sensitivity of the land and culture, this art will definitely live on.
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