Art in India does not wait for a canvas or paint.Rock faces and caves, a village wall, the floor, a threshhold ,a palm leaf, a piece of wood, or even the palm of a hand is space enough. For colors, the infinite use provided by nature from flowers, leaves or stones.Even when they move to pigments and consequently brighten their expressions, their images, stories, motifs and local identities remain true to their known cultural understanding. In this blog we intend to discuss Indian Art and Craft.
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
Madhubani Paintings: A Journey from village walls to Canvas
Madhubani, which means Forest of Honey, (Madhu-honey,
Bans-forest or woods) is a small
village in the northern part of Bihar. A
region that has its own language and a sense of regional identity that goes
back more than 2500 years. The land
which is a birthplace of Mahavira (a
deity of the Jain religion), Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), and Sita
(the wife of Lord Rama in the Ramayana).
The exact time of the origination of Madhubani or Mithila art is not known. It
is believed that during the time of the Ramayana, when King Janak ordered his
kingdom to decorate the town for the wedding of his daughter, Sita, to Lord
Rama. It is said that the women in Madhubani and Mithila started making the
paintings on the walls of their huts and this art form. Traditionally these
paintings were passed down over generations from mother to daughter.
Madhubani Painted Canister
The women painters of Mithila lived
in a closed society. What led the women painters to share their work with the
larger world was a major ecological and economic crisis due a prolonged drought
in 1966-68 that struck Madhubani and the surrounding region of Mithila and
women began to commercialise their art. The ancient tradition of elaborate wall
paintings or Bhitti - Chitra in Bihar played a
major role in the
emergence of this new art form. The
original inspiration for Madhubani art emerged out of women’s craving for
religiousness and an intense desire to be one with God. With the belief that painting something
divine would achieve that desire, women began to paint pictures of gods and
goddesses with an interpretation so divine that captured the hearts of many.
Madhubani paintings have three distinguished styles which correspond to
three castes of the Region:
1 . The Brahmins were the highest among these three castes. The Brahmin
style of painting lavishly deals use of vibrant colors and their paintings were
inspired by the sacred texts with stories of various Gods ; Ram, Krishna, Durga
and Shiva. Their easy access to Hindu sacred literature has helped them
immensely in portraying the rich Hindu iconography and mythology. The Brahmin
tradition mainly deals with themes of gods and goddesses and magical symbols
connected with deities.
Madhubani Painting on Wood
2 . The Kayasthas were a little below the Brahmins in the caste
hierarchy. The Kayastha style of painting basically was a practice of elaborate
wall paintings of the nuptial chamber or the “kohbar ghar”. And these are
symbolic of sexual pleasure and procreation. The wrappers for the vermilion
powder were painted by the bridegrooms family and sent to the bride before the
wedding. And they were allowed only black and red colours. The subjects of
these paintings were similar as the Brahmins. This style goes back to the
period of the Aryan invaders. These paintings were line- drawings of sacred
symbols. They represented the lotus plant, bamboo grove, fish, tortoises,
parrots, birds and all that symbolised fertility.
3 . The Dusadhs were a low caste group and they were not allowed to
represent divinities. This style is known as Tattoo or Godhana painting. Their
paintings themes included the flora and fauna, and based on the legend of Raja
Salhesh – a Dusadh cultural hero. The
painting is originally in the form of a line - drawing and is divided into
several horizontal margins. Eventually artists have begun to do illustrations
on Hindu epics and mythology. Considering its rich use of colour it is closer
to the Brahmin school of painting.
Madhubani Painted Canister
The traditional style of preparing
the wall for painting is to coat it with a paste of cow dung and mud which were
the primary village construction materials. These also enabled proper
absorption of colour. The same technique is still followed by few artists on
mediums such as cloth, handmade paper and canvas to give an authentic look.
The painting techniques are simple
and the raw materials are taken directly from nature .Outlines are done with
kalams and cotton wrapped on bamboo sticks or a bamboo stick, with its end
being slightly frayed serve as brushes which are dipped in colors and applied
to the medium. The colors are made using natural extract found locally like
henna leaves, flowers, neem leaves, etc.
Colour Sources :
Black – obtained from soot – a soft
thick deposit of captured smoke from the village chulha.
Yellow - From turmeric, pollen, lime,
milk of banyan leaves,
Deep Red - Kusum flower juice or
Green - wood apple tree leaves or
leaves of creepers
White - Rice powder
Orange - Palasha flowers.
The vibrant colours created with
natural dyes are a source of positive energy. Colours give warmth and the
paintings energize the atmosphere in the household. Flora and Fauna symbolizes
symbolize fertility and life. Madhubani paintings showcase these beautifully
Madhubani Products such as Madhubani on Wood, Madhubani Painted Canister and wooden trays are available on www.theindiacrafthouse.com on the below links: