Madhubani art, one of the most prominent folk art forms in India, is practised in the ancient cultural region of Mithila in Bihar and Nepal. Painting is identified to be the most celebrated art form here, especially amongst women, who adorn their walls with detailed patterns on account of marriages and several other festivities. The paintings of the kohbar, the room of the newlywed couples, represents love and fertility, which are usually the primary themes alongside the mythical, folk, and tantric illustrations. It is said that this vibrant folk art dates back to King Janaka, who commissioned the local artisans to paint the marriage of his daughter Princess Sita with Prince Rama.
Glories of the Past
It's interesting to see how this ages-back practice found its glory in the new-age era. The 1960 famine in Bihar pushed Mithila paintings as an art form of modern times. The art was recognized as an educational asset by the All India Handicrafts Board, which encouraged the women of Mithila to use their painting abilities on paper and make a living out of it. The females chose a sustainable way by using plant and mineral-derived colours with fingers, bamboo, or match sticks to draw and paint, ditching modern tools like brushes or pens. This successful transition was recognized and accepted by visitors and folk art connoisseurs, who were smitten and eagerly purchasing the art pieces and bringing them to global stages.
Worldview of Madhubani
Madhubani painting has garnered international attention in Japan, Germany, France, and the USA. Japan has its own Mithila Museum in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, with almost 850 paintings on display circling different themes and styles. US public art exhibition Global Positioning featured India's painting in the top 20 works by artists all across the globe. Even PM Narendra Modi gifted the mayor of Hannover a Madhubani painting as a souvenir from India.
Madhubani art is not just limited to Bihar but has a far-extended reach due to its culturally rich heritage and diverse artistic themes. In the subsequent sixty years, a wide variety of Mithila art forms and representations have emerged, differing according to area and caste, particularly between the Brahmin, Kayastha, and Harijan castes. Numerous independent artists have developed, each with their unique flair, adding individual value to the different pieces.
Local Artists and Their Work
Another way to look at Mithila paintings is as a caste-breaking movement. The art form represents the locals' thoughts, aspirations, and desires, particularly the women. Pushpa Kumari, a resident of Ranti village, is a remarkable artist who works on contemporary issues like women's rights in India. Her kachni and bharni style has an in-vogue method that covers societal problems, history, mythology, and folklore. Sita Devi, an artist from Jitwarpur village, has won Bharat Ratna and Padma Shri for her remarkable work in the field and its global recognition. She was one of the first Mithila artists who shifted the traditional wall art form to paper and canvas.
Mahasundari Devi from Madhubani town represents the idea of a cooperative society, and her impressive handiwork has been acknowledged with multiple accolades, like Padma Shri and Tulsi Samman. Another Padma Shri awardee Baua Devi, who is also a Jitwarpur local, has introduced Madhubani to the world with its beautiful depiction in several countries like Spain, Germany, France, and Japan.
Trip to Mithilanchal
As somebody interested in art and travel, a beautiful trail across Madhubani town, Darbhanga, Ranti Gharana, and Jitwarpur Gharana will be a captivating experience for you. The entire region is covered with Madhubani paintings that capture the prodigious abstract creation of Mithila. From murals to cloth and frames, these paintings are a sight to see and experience the local people bringing this art alive. The paintings, though similar, have a slight difference that won't go unnoticed by the audience. If you compare the paintings of Ranti and Jitwarpur, the difference is that Ranti's paintings have more line work, whereas Jitwarpur's work is full of filling style. These minute differences reveal the birth site and represent the uniqueness of these paintings in comparison to each other, which may otherwise appear almost identical.
The town is almost at sea level with mild weather conditions. The best time to visit this place is during winter, i.e., between December and March. While summers can be too hot, you can struggle to go out and have fun as a tourist. Monsoon is a good time to go, but then, the threat of flooding exists, which can again hamper your plans. During winter, you will get fine weather during the day, which will suit your all-day wanderings. At night, it gets chilly, and you can experience the perfect cosy stay-in relaxation time.
With December kicking in already, the perfect time to plan your trip to Mithilanchal has come. Book your tickets and pack your bags because the beauty of this art is waiting to encapture you!