India. It is mostly practiced by women in the villages who
have passed this art to their daughters through multiple
generations. They paint pictures of nature and mythology to
depict different events like birth, marriage, and cycles of life.
Though this folk art has been practiced for centuries it
started to gain national recognition... only in the last few
decades. Now, art patrons can find Madhubani artists in
several cities of northern India, many of whom are
experimenting and adapting the traditional styles to modern
ethos and medium.
The area of Mithila lies near the border of India and Nepal and carries a rich pastel of cultural
legacy in art and literature. Its heritage goes back at least 2,500 years and its celebrated figures
include the Buddha and Mahavira. It is also the birthplace of Sita, the central character in
Ramayana. Hence, her life stories are frequently depicted in the local art.
The paintings are traditionally based on mythological, folk themes and pastoral symbols. The
central themes of most paintings are love, valor, devotion and fertility, though the approach may
vary. So it is common to find scenes of courtship and marriages and symbols of fertility and
prosperity like fish, parrot, elephant, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo tree, lotus, etc. in prominence.
The divine beings are positioned centrally in the frame while their consorts and floral motifs form
the background. The human figures are mostly abstract and linear in form.
Even though this art is centuries old, it has preserved its original style and content in its native land
of Mithila. Nowadays synthetic colors are used but traditional artists still make their own colors
by extracting them from plants. The coloring is of two styles – Kachni (hatching) and Bharni
(shading.) Kachni uses delicate fine lines to fill the painting and not much color is used. Bharni
(shading) uses solid colors to shade and fill the pictures. It uses black outlines filled with vibrant
colors. A variety of inventive patterns are made with hatching and stippling. Even now during
birth and marriage ceremonies paintings are made on walls with different symbols like bamboo
(lineage,) lotus, and fish. The designs announce the occasion of the celebration and solicit good
fortune and divine blessings.