• Maya Muralidharan

Madhubani : Traditional Art of Mithila, Ancient India

Mithila painting or Madhubani painting has its origin in the Mithila region of Indian Subcontinent. Mithila, which is bounded by Himalayas in the north and by Ganges, Gandaki and Mahananda in south, west and east respectively, lies in the state of Bihar, modern day-India.

Madhubani Painting - Tree of Life
Tree of life

Madhubani art was first adopted by the court artists/painters of King Janak, for the marriage ceremony of Sita, daughter of King Janak to Lord Rama. Ever since, it’s practiced by folk women during special occasion like weddings, childbirth, festivals etc.

Unfortunately, this traditional art form has been on decline with growing urbanisation across the nation and lack of proper support and encouragement to the folk artist by the government. Though the Government of India has taken few initiatives in this regard, very few artists have benefitted.

Madhubani Art has quite a few interesting facts associated with it. The way of life and society of ancient India, gave way to five distinct styles of Madhubani paintings.


The black strokes drawn with Lamp Soot, gives definition to such paintings. These paintings are judged and valued for the expressions and images exhibited by various strokes of lines. The number of strokes is a reflection of the intricacy and details of the painting. Locally these paintings are called as “Kachni”.


Brahmin women, who apparently belonged to the so called 'Upper caste' normally practised this style. These paintings are elegant with boundlessly unique combination of colors displaying serene grandeur. They are locally known as “Bharni”


Godna style of painting is an expression of day-to-day life showing nature motifs, geometric designs, fortuitous symbols like swastika etc. Not very elaborate and defined, these were practiced on the mud walls of the houses.


Any marriage ceremony was deemed incomplete without Aripan. Aripan is regarded as an auspicious floor painting practiced only during matrimonial ceremonies.


These paintings are very different from other styles because the subject it depicts are solely on religious texts and the characters in them. The Tantrik style of paintings would manifest subjects like Maha Saraswati , Maha Lakshmi , “Elephant face God” :Ganesha etc.

Madhubani paintings are done using twigs or match sticks. These are often coloured with natural dyes like yellow comes from turmeric, red comes from the paste of flower called “Sikkot”, black is derived from lamp soot and so on. They rarely have blank spaces. These paintings are characterised by figures like “fish” which is believed to bring “good luck “,” Tree of life “which is symbol of “Happiness and long life”. Love, devotion, prosperity and fertility are often symbolised in geometric patterns. Sun, worshipped as God by the locals, occupies an important place in Madhubani painting.

Despite being creators of such beautiful art, the community of Madhubani artists are on verge of extinction. With little support from government and lack of attention, many artists are giving up the art in their quest to look for better paying jobs to survive and sustain their families.

We at Mimamsa Art believe that Folk arts like Madhubani, which is a reflection of centuries old traditions are timeless evidences of our history. Preservation and awareness of such dying art and community of artist is our motive and by way of creating a platform for the artist to exhibit their talent and share stories, we are doing our bit in giving back to the society. Please feel free to share your views/feedback with us by writing in the comments section below.

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