Bihar to Japan: Journey of Mithila Art
Madhubani painting, also referred to as Mithila Art (as it flourishes in the Mithila region of Bihar), is characterized by line drawings filled in by bright colours and contrasts or patterns.
This style of painting has been traditionally done by the women of the region, though today men are also involved to meet the demand. These paintings are popular because of their tribal motifs and use of bright earthy colours.
In the beginning, the women of the village drew these paintings on the walls of their dwelling, as a demonstration of their feelings, hopes, and ideas.
Later these paintings started becoming a part of festivities and special occasions. The themes & designs widely painted are of Hindu deities such as Krishna, Rama, Siva, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati Sun and Moon, Tulasi plant, court scenes, wedding scenes, social happenings etc. Floral, animal and bird motifs, geometrical designs are used to fill up all the gaps.
In the old times, they were done with mineral pigments prepared by the artists on the freshly plastered or a mud wall.Cotton wrapped around a bamboo stick forms the brush. Black colour is obtained by mixing soot with cow dung; yellow from turmeric or pollen or lime and the milk of banyan leaves; blue from indigo; red from the kusam flower juice or red sandalwood; green from the leaves of the wood apple tree; white from rice powder; orange from palasha flowers. The colours are applied flat with no shading and no empty space is left. If any unfilled space is left after painting the central theme, it is filled up with the motifs of animals, birds, flowers or geometric patterns.The designs widely painted are of Tulasi plant, court scenes, wedding scenes, social happenings etc.Also, heavenly bodies like the Sun and the Moon often form the centrepiece of paintings.
The skill is handed down the generations and hence the traditional designs and patterns are widely maintained. The themes are not diverse since the original paintings were restricted to a particular geography. Gradually, the Madhubani painting traversed the traditional boundaries and reached professional artists both in India and abroad for commercial purposes.
Today there is a 'Mithila Museum', situated in Japan`s Niigata prefecture and a brainchild of Tokio Hasegawa, is now a treasure house of 15,000 exquisite Madhubani paintings and attracts hundreds of artists from India.