The art of Madhubani Paintings is said to date back to the time of Ramayana. People believe that King Janaka asked an artist to paint and decorate the land and to capture his daughter Sita’s wedding to Prince Rama. Traditionally women used to craft these mesmerizing paintings on walls and floors of homes during weddings, festivals, ceremonies and other special occasions. It was a custom that people believed was to bring luck and prosperity in the house.
Madhubani art was originated in the Mithila region in Bihar, hence is also known as Mithila art and has been in practice in areas around Bihar and Nepal. Traditionally, the subject matter of the Madhubani Paintings were mainly the Hindu gods. Artists used to depict the tales of religious characters such as Krishna, Rama, Durga, Shiva, Sarasvati, etc. Some artists also added the natural themes exhibiting Sun, Moon and religious plants.
Madhubani paintings are made using fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, using natural dyes and pigments and indicated eye-catching geometrical patterns. The usage of tribal motifs and bright earthy colors make it more distinguished. You won’t be able to find the minutest space in the Madhubani paintings. If there was any gap left, artists fill that by adding dazzling flowers, birds, mesmerizing patterns and animals.
Paintings/Art are a reflection of the culture and tradition of the place from where they originate. And so is the case with Madhubani paintings, they are an important part of Indian Culture. Ancient Madhubani paintings are still some of the oldest and most beautiful art that people can witness and admire today. The art, which was losing its importance earlier is now again emerging as a major art form.
The artists that are extraordinarily talented in this art form, have made their art a subject of artistic attraction across geographical boundaries. When some government officials found out the artistic excellence of these paintings in the 1960s, in order to create a source of non-agricultural income, All India Handicrafts Board and the Government of India took an initiative to popularize the art in order to uplift the artists’ financial earnings. They encouraged the artists to produce their traditional paintings on handmade paper for commercial sale in the worldwide market.
Madhubani art has become a primary source of income for a lot of families. The continuing market in this art throughout the world is a tribute to the resourcefulness of the women of Mithila who have successfully transferred their techniques of Bhitti Chitra (made with soil and cow dung) or wall painting to the medium of paper.
Various initiatives taken by the local government, NGOs and cultural organizations, have managed to give the Madhubani art more popularity and recognition. In the fashion industry, many designers have launched Madhubani design collections including traditional outfits like Stoles, Sarees, Salwar kameez, long skirts, loafers etc. which are beautifully designed using Madhubani art. Not only clothes but many other day-to-day useable products like pen-cases, bags, diaries, etc. are also painted in Mithila art and have become a trend. And hence Madhubani painting has received GI (Geographical Indication) status.
Moreover, tourism is one of the reasons for helping the art in getting more attention. Tourism today is one of the most dynamic and diversified socio-economic activity happening globally. It has the capability of turning an unnoticed region into a prosperous one by generating employment opportunities for the local people and also helps in giving due importance to the local cultural heritage. Madhubani paintings have great potential to attract foreign tourists.
Tourists from across the world that are keenly interested in art are intrigued by the rural tourism and heritage of India and Madhubani paintings have scaled new heights beyond the boundaries of Mithila. These paintings have international popularity, especially in countries like Japan, Germany, France and the USA. The Mithila Museum in Tokamachi, Japan, founded by a famous Madhubani art lover, Hasegawa exhibits around 1000 Madhubani paintings of various themes and styles. Several books and research papers have been written on various aspects of Madhubani painting by Indian and foreign writers. The Master Craftsmen Association of Mithila, founded by an American in 1977 CE, helps the artists of Madhubani with the sale of their works through exhibitions.
Recently, all the government buildings of the Madhubani city, including the railway station, town hall, administrative office buildings, and government bungalows, etc. have been covered by Madhubani paintings. Several long-distance trains (coaches) of India have been completely turned into artistic works showing Madhubani paintings. With such efforts on the part of the government and local artists, Madhubani paintings are once again emerging as a major art form on the artistic canvass of the modern world.