Art has been an essential part of Indian heritage since ancient times. Folk art is as important as classical art forms. Folk art is inspired by Indian mythology. Madhubani painting is one of these celebrated folk art forms. This painting is also referred to as Mithila Art. This art form is distinguished by line drawings filled in by vivid colors and contrasts/ patterns. Traditionally, this style of painting has been done by the women of the region. Success of Madhubani paintings has stimulated even men folk to join to meet the growing demand. Tribal motifs and use of dazzling earthy colors have made these paintings famous. These paintings are fashioned with mineral pigments that artists prepare. It is done on newly plastered or a mud wall.
Madhubani painting originated in a little village known as Maithili, in the State of Bihar. Initially, the womenfolk drew the paintings on walls of their home, as design of their thoughts, dreams and hopes. With the course of time, these paintings gained importance of being a part of celebrations and special events, such as wedding. Bit by bit the Madhubani paintings in India crossed the fixed boundaries and began reaching specialists of art. They enjoy popularity both at the national andsthe international level.
Madhubani paintings are two-dimensional and linear works having mostly sacred but secular themes. Madhubani paintings have wide-ranging themes. Even though scenes from Hindu mythology still rule these paintings. Amongst the most commonly executed themes in the Madhubani paintings are the events from Ramayana and life of Krishna. Other deities as well reappear in the paintings repeatedly. The Ardhanariswar is an area of expertise of Mithila paintings of India. Madhubani paintings of India also esteem the sun and moon and treat them as subjects of holiness.
Some exceptionally delightful Madhubani paintings are those of the figurative and the secular types. Although less plentiful than the religious paintings, they are unrivaled in artlessness and elegance.
Often, scenes of rural life are also depicted in these paintings. Women indulged in various village activities such as carrying baskets on their heads, drawing water from a well, or a village hobo playing a flute are general themes of these types. A number of symbolic paintings also flourish, the tree telling life and vivacity and the fish symptomatic of fertility are the most common symbols of Madhubani art.
The women don’t use camel hair brushes to create their works of art, but use only plain, slatted bamboo sticks with wads of cotton to apply the paint. “The colours are made from vegetable dyes or are of natural origin and are prepared by the women themselves. Black is made by mixing soot with cow dung, yellow from turmeric, blue from indigo, red from red sandalwood, green from leaves and white from rice paste. The black outlines are drawn first and then the colour is filled into the spaces.
During the period 1966-68, a prolonged drought struck Madhubani and the neighboring region of Mithila. A new source of non-agricultural income had to be found to keep these people away from the pangs of hunger. The All India Handicrafts Board encouraged the women artists to create their paintings on handmade paper for commercial purposes. For the market, the work is done on handmade paper or cloth treated with cow dung to give it its distinctive look and identity.