Mithila was famous for its poets and high level of aesthetics as far back as the 7th century and thus the region has been ruled by Brahmin kings, therefore, there is a class divide in expression because initially only the woman of the Kayastha or the Brahmin caste were only allowed to practice this art. It is said that the artists would depict what they saw in their daily life. They painted what affected them. They have become a cameo of the times they live in. Art is self-expressive, an artistic rendition of the history. The paintings which were originally in mural form have today taken its medium as silk, cotton and thus a simple local craft has become global and has become drawing room pieces. The reason which made women empowered. Art breathes life and has the sensibility and Madhubani paintings have the ethos of Mithila in it. It is very close to nature in substance since Bihar shares its borders with Nepal there has been an influence of this art in Nepal and Madhubani spread its fame. They share this beautiful Madhu or honey of culture, as dense as a forest. The women were very active in making the Madhubani patterns. The technique is passed down from mother to daughter just like rangoli or kollam is taught. It is a ceremonial practice, part of their life. These paintings were initially done on the walls. The walls were plastered with a coating of cow dung and mud another form is Aripana which is a floor painting, initially rice paste, and natural colours were used. Which were obtained from burn’t grains, turmeric, flowers & leaves. The brush was a twig with cotton tied at one end. Nowadays things have changed. No longer is it restricted to caste. Today all women regardless of caste use it as a medium of expression and to keep the authenticity of the past they splatter cow dung on the handmade paper before putting brush to paper.
The images from the Ramayan are quite common because we are talking about a region of Lord Ram, Janakpur was the capital of Mithila. Episodes of Ram, Sita and Hanuman are drawn with reverence. So also other Gods and Goddesses like Ganesha, Shankara, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga. Radha Krishna is quite a favourite. Nature inspires artists a lot so the flora fauna and birds and animals. They are inspired by religion, mythology day to day life. The special events, festivals demand a Madhubani on the wall of their house. So the wall would be washed afresh and a mural created at weddings, in the nuptial chamber, the kohbar motifs like lotus saplings, snakes in union, fish, parrot, tortoise and the sun and moon around the lotus plant as a symbol of fertility were drawn for auspiciousness and progeny. The colours used are clear and bright and not much shading is done. So artists paint their favourite love-play of Radha and Krishna or the exile of Rama. Hanuman, the monkey god is also painted as a loyal devotee of Lord Rama in their paintings.
Once Gandhi Ji said if you want to know what kind of a nation it is? Just see how they treat their animals. Likewise, if you see the paintings you will get the feel of the pulse of the place and its social fabric. A caste-ridden community in which there were rigid do’s and don’t but time transcends all. Today the women of Mithila have got global fame because of their prowess in this art form. Truly time has been a balm of sorts, as today any woman of any caste can draw whatever takes her fancy. That is truly the empowerment of women. The women conduct workshops to popularize this simple rustic ceremonial art into a professional art category. It is only women who are shouldering this art form and have been accoladed and they have put women on the map and shattered the caste barrier.
Shatika Presenting the exclusive collection of Madhubani Handpainted Sarees !