Madhubani Painting: Origin, History, Designs, Images, Artists

Madhubani Painting

Originating from the Mithila region of Bihar and Nepal, Madhubani paintings are gorgeous and vibrant masterpieces. They are so visually appealing that looking at them reminds us instantly of the beautiful land of colours and its culture.

Madhubani style has become one of the most prominent traditional art forms of India. These paintings often feature very complex and intricate geometrical shapes and patterns. They frequently represent symbolic content displaying religious festivals and rituals.

The paintings are usually painted with colours which are derived from natural sources like plants and often very bright and luminous. The lampblack pigment is used to create black colour while the ochre pigment is used to form a brown shade. Peculiar objects like matchsticks, twigs or branches from the trees and sometimes even fingers can be used to create these unique and beautiful paintings.

Madhubani Painting Origin and History:

The origin of Madhubani Paintings can be traced back to the times of the Ramayana as the references to it can be found in the Hindu epic. It was mentioned that when king Janaka arranged the marriage of Sita to Rama, he asked the painters of his Kingdom to create magnificent Madhubani Paintings for the wedding.

The knowledge was passed down as tradition from one generation to the other and began to be an adorned by the houses of the villages. It is practised regularly by the women from the villages and they usually paint these on the walls of their home. Through the paintings, they express their colourful thoughts and dreams. Madhubani painting had become an integral part of their tradition and culture, ultimately getting embedded in the festivals and special events.

Eventually, many talented Madhubani artists from the region of its origin got inspired and took the responsibility of popularizing this art form on a global scale. Certain deviations have happened over time from the traditional way of making the art as the plastered mud wall got replaced by paper, cloth or canvas but the theme has remained substantially unchanged.

Madhubani Painting Style and Designs:

The paintings originally contained five different styles which are:

  • Bharni
  • Tantrik
  • Kohbar
  • Katchani
  • Godna

Nowadays, contemporary Indian artists have blended the different styles of Madhubani painting and merged them into a single style. The themes often reflect Hindu gods and deities like Rama, Lakshmi, Shiv, Durga, Krishna and many more. Even celestial bodies like the sun or moon can be the subject of the paintings. Sometimes royal quotes and wedding scenes are represented using geometrical designs shapes and patterns in vibrant colours which is the most eminent feature of the Madhubani paintings.

The paintings are appreciated by many for its beauty and simplicity. Everything from colours to the brushes is derived from natural sources and are completely organic. The colours are made with powdered rice, turmeric, pigments, Indigo, flowers, sandalwood and leaves of several indigenous plants and trees. Many natural sources are mixed and matched to produce the required colours. The border is usually a double line. After filling the whole Canvas if some empty spaces still remain, often birds and geometrical shapes are used to fill up those spaces.

Simple Madhubani Painting:

To make a simple Madhubani painting one needs to make the border first, then the subject and then start filling the empty spaces. When colouring, first colour the background and then the subject and finally the border. An example of a simple Madhubani painting is given below with Radha-Krishna as the subject.

Madhubani Artists:

The credit for making Madhubani style so famous on a global level goes to the eminent artists who have dedicated their lives towards working to make Madhubani paintings more and more beautiful for the lovers of arts and culture. Some of such notable artists are:

Sita Devi

She was born in the Jitwarpur village in the Madhubani district of Bihar. She was one of the women of the flock who practice Madhubani painting and was introduced to it right from childhood. Through lots of patience and dedication and love for her work and an excellent, brilliant mind she thought out very creative paintings because of which she was given the State Award by the Government of Bihar in 1969.

It was only after receiving the award that she rose to national and international fame and got the platform to show her work in front of the world. She was again honoured with the National Award by the President of India in 1975 and Padma Shri in 1981. She was subsequently given the Bihar Ratna and the title of Shilp Guru.

Ganga Devi

Ganga Devi was another creative genius who popularised the Madhubani paintings in the west. She was also born in one of the traditional villages where Madhubani painting was practised so she got the opportunity to be exposed to the Madhubani painting styles right from her childhood in Mithila, Bihar. Being born into the Kayastha community she practised the kitchen style of Madhubani painting and went on to evolve her style and technique.

She explored several countries in order to make the beautiful traditional art form popular in the global stage and made many attempts to do so by participating in several events that were organised by the governments of different countries. She was awarded the National Award for Crafts by the Government of India and in in 1984, she was given the 4th highest civilian honour of Padma Shri by the President of India.

Mahasundari Devi

Madhubani Painting

Another jewel of the Madhubani paintings who was born in the Madhubani district had learnt painting from her aunt since a very young age. She created a cooperative society to support the artists and help them develop several art forms including Madhubani paintings. She received worldwide fame and various awards for her contribution to Indian art.

Madhubani Painting Images:


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