Mithila paintings also known as Madhubani paintings OR Madhubani Art is said to originate in the courts of Raja Janak during preparation for the marriage of his daughter Sita to Lord Ram. Mithila painting has traditionally been done on the interior walls of ‘Kohbara Ghar’ (Nupital House) and was unknown to the outside world until it was ‘discovered’ after the massive earthquake of 1934 that hit Nepal and bordering Bihar in India. This massive earthquake flattened the houses, exposing the interior walls to the visiting British Official William Archer who documented and shared this art form with the world.
Mithila paintings (Madhubani Art) is traditionally done on mud walls and are world famous for their beautiful colors, geometric forms, depiction of scenes from epics like Ramayana and variety of natural objects like flower, animals, and birds. Prominent colors include pink, parrot green, red, copper blue, and sulphate blue, yellow and dark blue. Earlier, colors were derived from natural sources like plants, charcoal soot, ochre etc. Black color was obtained by mixing soot with cow dung while yellow color was made by mixing turmeric, pollen or lime with the milk of banyan leaves. Red color was derived from the Kusum flower juice or red sandalwood. Meanwhile, leaves of apple trees were used to obtain green color, rice powder for white color and palasha flowers were used to get orange colour.
Several styles of Madhubani paintings exist and can be broadly categorized as Geru, Bharni, Kachni, Tantric, Gobar, and Godana. Bharni and Kachni styles were made by Brahmin women and are stylistic and intricate in design. The Harijan paintings broadly come under two styles – Gobar, or cow dung – painting, and Godana, or tattoo painting. The former is attributed to Chamar artists and the latter to artists of the Dusadh community.
Many artists are now involved in keeping this ‘Parampara’ (tradition) alive and use as much of natural color as possible and paint on handmade paper. When it comes to the subject of their painting they draw inspiration from traditional stories from Hindu Epics but also incorporate modern stories. Moreover, keeping up with modern times they frequently paint on fabrics and make beautiful T-shirts, bags, sarees. Each piece takes painstaking effort and can take anywhere from few hours to several days.