Paintings and art are the reflections of the culture and tradition of a place where they originated. India is known for its ancient culture and art. Madhubani painting, which is one of the oldest art forms in India, received an official recognition in 1969 when Sita Devi, a prominent Mithila artist, received a state award from the Bihar government.
Mithila painting, popularly known as Madhubani painting, is the folk art of the Mithila region of Bihar. The name 'Madhubani' means ‘forest of honey’. It is the local art of the Madhubani district of Bihar, which is also the biggest exporter of Madhubani artistic creations in India.
The art of Madhubani has five different styles: bharni, katchni, tantrik, godna and kohbar and it is produced in several parts of Bihar. However, there is no evidence of the time of its origin. The folk paintings of the Mithali region are made on walls.
The wall surfaces were plastered by cow dung and earlier, the paints were prepared at home. The common colours used in Mithila paintings are gulabi (pink), nila (blue), and suga pankhi (green). It is a 'feminine' art, mostly made by women homemakers.
This folk art came into the limelight when the paintings shifted to paper in addition to the walls of homes in Mithila. Art enthusiasts took notice and it got public recognition when Mithila artists like Jagadamba Devi and Sita Devi were given national awards by the President.
Madhubani paintings are popular in Europe and Canada as well as other countries. The global popularity of this art, after it was exhibited at several International art exhibitions, further settled it by guaranteeing deals of artistic creations, which were made on paper rather than the floors or dividers of towns.
Artists like Maha Savitri Devi of Ranti, Sita Devi of Jitwarpur, Baua Devi Jha, Jagadamba Devi and Mahasundari Devi were legends who made this art thrive and contributed to its global recognition.
Neel Rekha, an independent researcher from Kolkata, in her research mentions that there were indirect references to the art in regional texts from the 14th century onwards, while trying to explore its transformation from folk art to fine art. The art has become more visible with the elites of Bihar responding to it as an expression of their cultural heritage. Further, she notes that the award-winning artists are well-traveled and exhibitions have been held in France, Germany and the USA. These women also represented a form of “women power” in predominantly patriarchal Bihar, though men are painting too.
In the past, Madhubani painting was finished using fingers and/or twigs. But now, matchsticks and pen nibs are likewise utilised. Initially, artists created outlines by sticking rice on canvases. Later, colours were added to the outlined characters. These artistic creations seldom have any clear spaces. Lines are regularly decorated with geometrical and floral patterns. These are characterised by figures that are prominently outlined like bulging fish-like eyes and pointed noses.
The themes of the painting include natural elements like the sun, fish, birds, animals, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo trees and flowers. Today, this work of art has found a place on the global stage on mediums like fabric, paper, material, paper-mache items, and so on.