I am sure that if I shout out the name Leonardo Da Vinci or Vincent Van Gogh, you will immediately say, “yes I know them”. And of course who doesn’t know the most famous artists?? So if I take the names of Sita Devi, Mahasundari Devi, Malvika Raj or Dulari Devi, you must be knowing them. No? Okay then at least you must have heard their names. Still no? Then sweetheart you need to appreciate our world-renowned Madhubani artists, and the art of Mithila, Bihar, India. Worry not this article will tell you about all the famous artists of MADHUBANI PAINTING and additionally you will get to know about the HISTORY, MAKING, TYPES, and PRODUCTS of this art.
You will be surprised to know that the art of Mithila is centuries older than the art of Rome (yes your Leonardo’s art). It dates back to the period of Ramayana (Hindu Mythology), which means Madhubani Painting is 2500 years old folk art!! But this painting came into the limelight when it was discovered in 1934 after a massive earthquake hit Bihar. The British Colonial officer of Madhubani district, William G. Archer chanced upon these paintings in the interior walls of the homes while he was examining the damage caused by the quake.
From then it became one of the many famous Indian art forms. As it is practised in the Mithila region of Bihar and Nepal, it is called Mithila or Madhubani art and also called Bhitti Chitra in the local language. Often characterized by complex geometrical patterns, these paintings are known for representing ritual content for particular occasions, including festivals, religious rituals, etc. If you look at these paintings carefully, you can see stories hidden in them. This often reflects the culture and tradition of the place from which they originate. They tend to be a reflection of the times in which the art was created.
Wondering how these paintings are special and unique? So here is the answer! These paintings were traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls and floors of huts, but now they are also done on cloth, handmade paper and canvas. Madhubani paintings are made from the paste of powdered rice. This painting has remained confined to a compact geographical area and the skills have been passed on through centuries, the content and the style have largely remained the same. Thus, Madhubani Painting has received GI (Geographical Indication) status. It uses two-dimensional imagery, and the colours used are derived from plants and other natural resources. These colours are often bright and pigments like Ochre, Lampblack and Red are used for reddish-brown and black, respectively. Instead of contemporary brushes, objects like twigs, matchsticks and even fingers are used to create the paintings.
Let’s talk about the different styles of Madhubani art. You know what, it is not only painted in one style, but it has five distinctive styles: Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna and Kohbar. In the 1960s Bharni, and Tantrik styles were mainly done by Brahman women, who are ‘upper caste’ women in India and Nepal. Their themes were mainly religious and they depicted Gods and Goddesses paintings. People of lower castes included aspects of their daily life and symbols, the story of Raja Shailesh (guard of the village) and much more, in their paintings. Nowadays Madhubani art has become a globalised art form, so there is no difference in the work based on the caste system. They work in all five styles. Madhubani art has received worldwide attention.
Paintings are the proof of the beautiful creative minds, so it will be injustice if I don’t talk about the Madhubani artists. Some of the most famous Madhubani artists you must be knowing are-: Sita Devi- Pioneering Madhubani artist, she exhibited the nature and influence of the arts in the socio-political development of an underdeveloped region in rural India. She brought the bharni form out of homes and showcased it in public, both in India and abroad. Her work was officially recognized by the Government of India in 1981 and she was awarded the Padma Shri.
Mahasundari Devi– In 1961 Mahasundari Devi shed her purdah (veil) and picked up the brush to practice Madhubani painting which further inspired future generations to empower themselves. She was the founder of Mithila Hastashilp Kalakar Audyogki Sahyog Samiti, which aimed at supporting the growth and development of art and artists. Devi was recognized and awarded by the president of India in 1982 for her commitment to art. She was also awarded the Padma Shri in 2011 for her paramount contribution to the field of art. She had expertise in sikki work, sujani craft and clay work in Madhubani paintings. Her legacy and artwork live on through her sister-in-law Karpuri Devi and granddaughter Pushpa Kumari.
Malvika Raj– A Dalit woman artist from Samastipur, Bihar has been subverting the genre by illustrating folklore surrounding Buddha’s epoch, different from Hindu mythology.
Dulari Devi– She has transformed Madhubani art and expanded the palate from primary colours. Although she cannot read or write, with her collaborative efforts with Gita Wolf, she has published her biography called ‘Following My Paintbrush’. With her artwork, she also wishes to extensively work on the education of children belonging to the Mallah community (as she belongs to the same community) and make sure they are recipients of formal education.
Pushpa Kumari– The oneness that she views the world with and the emotional intensity of her approach towards social issues like HIV, female foeticide or even mythology differentiate her from her artist counterparts. Not only does she portray the world she inhabits, but she also adds her understanding of these issues. The personal and political interpretation of collective struggles through subtle details or dramatic expression indicate her emotional investment in her art. However, despite everything she retains the traditional style of Madhubani painting.
Mahalaxmi– Mahalaxmi is one of the numerous young artists who wish to use this art form to set a discourse around problems such as street harassment and education. She is also a recipient of a scholarship by the Ministry of Culture and maintains that she would like to continue after marriage as well and have a successful career.
Now that you know these many things about your rich art, you must be excited to flaunt it. And the easiest way to do that is by using products on which Mithila art is displayed. You can buy accessories like- Clutch Bag, Handbag, Sikki files or Bangles on which this painting is beautifully designed. If you love to wear ethnic you can also buy Madhubani Dupatta/Saree or Stole. So now, you can feel proud of your culture and can flaunt it as well.
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