I realised that all my ranting about Madhubani fell on deaf ears. It is not like I have a million readers everyday. But even the ones who diligently read the blog complained. I did not write what Madhubani was all about. I was so busy de-stressing after that hectic week that all I could think of what the baby-sitting, exhibition organizing and paint filling that I did. So please accept my apologies and do read on.
Madhubani is the form of Mithila painting that is done on paper. Mithila paintings originated from the Mithila region, the ancient cultural region that lies between the lower range of the Himalayas and the Ganges river. Half of this region is in present day Nepal and Janakpur in Nepal is the major hub for the painting. Madhubani district is the Indian counterpart of Janakpur.
Mythologically speaking, Sita (Lord Ram’s queen) was a Mithila girl. Her father Janak commissioned these artists to paint for the wedding celebrations. Hence these paintings are done for rituals, wedding being the most prominent. Kohabar is the chamber where the bride (usually a child) meets her groom for the first time after marriage. These paintings are part ritual and part suggestive. Their major theme revolves around love and fertility which references taken from Ramayana, Mahabharata and the local folklore.
Since the region is predominantly agricultural and flooding in the monsoons brings in a lot of snakes, snakes are worshipped for protection. This theme is also widely present in their paintings.
The caste system in Mithila determines your form of art. Originally done only by Maithil brahmin women, this art remained within the confines of the home. The women married early, lived in the ancestral home of their in-laws and did not step outside the courtyard. So this painting form done on the walls of their home is a form of expression for the women. They paint mostly religious characters, but add in them their own little identities. Painting was only done on the walls using colours that were extracted from local materials. Gandhiji’s khadi weaving set the trend for the painting on paper. His movement enabled women to work from home. This sort of empowerment was necessary in monetary terms as well. Repeated droughts and floods caused low agricultural yields. So money from selling paintings came to the rescue. The women from the Kayastha community followed suit and the Harijan women took it up only in the 60s.
The form of painting varies depending on the caste. The Brahmin women paint bright colored figures, the Kayastha used only outlines while the Harijan women specialize in tattoo(Godna) paintings.
For the interested ones, here are couple of other interesting links.
Madhubani on the Nepal side- http://www.asianart.com/exhibitions/jwdc/index.html#Row12