Madhubani Hand Painting

Mithila Painting - The Harmony of Tradition & Folk Art

Art is therapeutic, an inner connection to the soul!

Folk Art often echoes the culture and tradition of the place from which they originate. Growing up, Arts always fascinated me. Back then, I was unaware of various folk arts that prevail in India. Yet, my interest in art had roots during the school years of my life. I last had a go at hand painting whilst still at college and it’s the activity I wish to get resumed in the future.

When I ventured into the world of textiles, the weaving clusters of India and the Art forms inspired me. To a large extent, Madhubani Painting. Perhaps the very essence of artistic expression and its beauty is in its interpretation. I began familiarizing myself with the famed Madhubani painting, or Madhuvan as it was earlier known, means a ‘forest of honey’.

Every great ART starts somewhere - A ceremonial 2500-year-old folk painting of the ancient Mithila region of Bihar and Nepal dates back to the time of great Indian epic Ramayana, when King Janaka summoned an artisan to capture his daughter Princess Sita’s marriage to Prince Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya. 


The evolution of an ancient Folk Art:  

Generations of women perpetuating this tradition often passed on from mothers to daughters. From Bhitti Chitra (murals / wall-painting) to Aripana (floor-painting) to Pata Chitra (canvas-painting) to Textiles, the Mithila Painting / Madhubani Painting has gained momentum over the years. 


Mithila Art forms:

  • Bharni, Kachni, Tantrik: Brahman and Kayashth women, who are 'upper caste' women in India and Nepal, mainly did these styles. Their themes were mainly religious, and they depicted Gods and Goddesses paintings.
  • Godna and Kohbar: People of lower castes included aspects of their daily life and symbols, the story of Raja Salhesh [guard of the village] and much more, in their paintings.

 Madhubani Art - Godna & Bharni Styles

Themes & Colors used in Mithila Art:

Mithila art remains inextricable, of people’s daily lives, rituals, and festivals. The subjects of the paintings revolve around traditional and ritualistic stories drawn from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, narratives of Krishna, Hindu deities, Tantric symbolisms and Flora & Fauna. 

Kohbar painting, which represents love and fertility in marriage, stands out amongst all other Mithila art.

Conventionally, Madhubani paintings used homemade natural colors and painted using twigs, thin sticks with thread wrapped around one end formed the original brushes, and fingers rather than nib-pens or brushes. Today, the artists also use fabric colors.

  • Black: Prepared using burnt seeds of barley or blending soot and cow dung;
  • White: From Rice powder;
  • Red: Extracted from Kusum flower (Safflower) & Polo berries;
  • Pink: Extracted from the dried Pipal bark.
  • Orange: From Palash flower (Flame of the forest);
  • Yellow: Prepared using turmeric or chuna (lime) mixed with milk from banyan leaf and Singar flower;
  • Blue: Extracted from Indigo & Aparajita flower;
  • Green: Extracted from bel leaves & wood apple tree leaves; 


Madhubani Art Theme

The symbols & interpretation:

  • Elephant & Palanquin: Denote royalty.
  • Fish: Symbolizes fertility, procreation and good luck.
  • Peacocks: Associated with romantic love, the epitome of beauty and ecstasy.
  • Serpents: Divine protectors.
  • Turtles: Symbolizes vitality and good luck.
  • Sun and moon: Represent long life
  • Lotus: Denotes Good luck & symbolic of female.
  • Bamboo tree: Symbolizes male figure.
  • Figurative motifs (Secular figures and religious figures): Mostly abstract and linear. The figures are two dimensional. The faces usually include sharp noses with bulging eyes.
  • Leaves: There is no space seen in Madhubani painting. The artists fill the gaps with paintings of flowers and various other foliage.

    Madhubani Painting Symbols

    Wrapping up: 

    This ancient folk art, which emerged as murals on walls and floors of village homes in the Mithila Region of North Bihar, continues its journey. Innovations will support the art thriving. The painting Praxis provides income and empowers women. 

    I hope this article was insightful and that you’ll inspire by the Madhubani art saree collection just the way I got inspired. Shop our Madhubani Art Sarees here. Indirectly, you will support women artisans.


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