Madhubani painting has been done traditionally by the women of villages around the present town of Madhubani (the literal meaning of which is forests of honey) and other areas of Mithila. The painting was traditionally done on freshly plastered mud wall of huts, but now it is also done on cloth, hand-made paper and canvas.
As Madhubani 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. Madhubani paintings also use two dimensional imagery, and the colors used are derived from plants. Ochre and lampblack are also used for reddish brown and black respectively.
Madhubani paintings mostly depict nature and Hindu religious motifs, and the themes generally revolve around Hindu deities like Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. Natural objects like the sun, the moon, and religious plants like tulsi are also widely painted, along with scenes from the royal court and social events like weddings. Generally no space is left empty; the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric designs. Objects depicted in the walls of kohabar ghar (where newly wed couple see each other in the first night) are symbols of sexual pleasure and procreation.
Traditionally, painting was one of the skills that was passed down from generation to generation in the families of the Mithila Region, mainly by women. The painting was usually done on walls during festivals, religious events, and other milestones of the life-cycle such as birth, Upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony), and marriage.