Mithila Painting (also called Madhubani art or Mithila painting) is practiced in the Mithila region of India and Nepal. Painting is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, using natural dyes and pigments, and is characterised by eye-catching geometrical patterns. There is ritual content for particular occasions, such as birth or marriage, and festivals, such as Holi, Surya Shasti, Kali Puja, Upanayana, Durga Puja.
Madhubani painting/Mithila painting was traditionally created by the women of various communities in Mithila region of India and Nepal. It originated from Mithila region and Madhubani district of Mithila region of Bihar became the major export centre of these paintings, hence, it is popularly called Mithila painting or Madhubani painting. This painting as a form of wall art was practiced widely throughout the region. the more recent development of painting on paper and canvas mainly originated among the villages around Madhubani, and it is these latter developments led to the name Madhubani art being used alongside the name “Mithila Painting”.
The painting was 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. 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. And that is the reason for Madhubani painting being accorded the coveted GI (Geographical Indication) status. 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 the men & its association with nature and the scenes & deity from the ancient epics. 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. 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. It is still practiced and kept alive in the institutions spread across Mithila region. Kalakriti in Darbhanga, Vaidehi in Madhubani, Benipatti in Madhubani district and Gram Vikas Parishad in Ranti are some of the major centers of Madhubani painting which has kept this ancient art form alive.
Madhubani art has five distinctive styles, namely, Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, godna and kohbar. In the 1960s Bharni, Kachni and Tantrik style were mainly done by Brahman and Kayashth women, who are ‘upper caste’ women in India and Nepal. Their themes were mainly religious and they depicted Gods and Goddesses, flora and fauna in their paintings. People of lower castes includes aspects of their daily life and symbols, story of Raja Shailesh and much more, in their paintings. But nowadays Madhubani art has become a globalised art form so there is no difference in the work of artists of the region on the basis of caste system . They are working in all five styles. Madhubani art received international and national attention.