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What is Madhubani painting?

Madhubani painting or Madhubani art is a Hindu style of painting that is practiced in the Mithila region of Nepal and the state of Bihar. It is from an ancient tradition of painting from Mithila (present day Janakpur in Nepal), once ruled by King Janaka.


What is unusual about this art?

Painting is done by fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, match sticks and such crude tools. There is use of natural dyes and pigments and patterns chosen are generally eye-catching geometrical designs.

Known as occasion painting, Madhubani art is practiced during certain occasions only, such as festivals like Holi, Surya Shasti, Kali Puja, Upanayanam, Durga Puja etc., births and weddings.

Historical background

King Janaka, father of Goddess Sita, at the time of her marriage to Lord Rama, wanted the palace to be painted and decorated. At that time Bhitti Chitra or painting on the walls was prevalent. Women were generally employed for tasks such as these. The themes that were chosen were generally religious with the thought that by choosing such subjects of deities and scenes from the royal court, the proximity to God would be much more. So inspirational were the outcomes that it seemed as if indeed the divine force had a hand in their work and earned them the royal appreciation.

The name for this land, Madhubani came from Madhu (honey) and Ban (forest or woods) and has always had a distinct regional identity and language different from other regions of the state since the last 2500 years. These women from the Brahman, Dusadh and Kayasth communities who undertook to do Madhubani paintings were a close knit society, always from a certain village, of a certain family and caste. The paintings were done on walls that were coated with mud and cow dung. This was supposed to be the nuptial chamber where the marriage would be consummated. The theme of the paintings included symbolic images such as lotus plant, bamboo grove, fishes, birds, snakes in union etc. considered to be representing fertility and the proliferation of life.