Madhubani Art from Mithila


Madhubani Art – Radha and Krishna under a kadamba tree by Karpoori Devi

The above is a painting of Radha and Krishna under a kadamba tree. It was painted on paper by Karpoori Devi in 1995 in the Madhubani style of the Mithila region of Bihar. The picture was taken at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. In this picture, the divine couple is seen in a lush forest setting. Also important is the auspicious kadamba tree with round yellow flowers.

Hindu gods and goddesses are the popular topic of Madhubani art, which you can identify by the vibrant colors, distinctive lines and elaborate details. Notice the borders of the paintings to see what I mean. For centuries, women have painted the walls of homes with festive imagery. In the memory of the locals, this tradition has been around since the time of Raja Janak. These paintings adorned private spaces with images of gods and other festivities.

The pigments for the painting come from flowers, berries, tree bark etc and traditionally produced twenty-two colors. Brushes were made from frayed straws and sticks of bamboo wrapped in cotton. Nowadays modern pigments are used for color and for fine lines nib-pen are used. As you see a sample of these paintings, you will see bountiful representation of nature, the birds and animals. There is detailed line work and rich patterns on the border.

If you want to see the richness of these paintings, this is the perfect one. The large tree is filled with birds. Krishna along with a cow and calf are standing next to him.

Madhubani Art -Tree of Life with Krishna

This one shows Shiva riding Nandi among the mountains in Kailash. All of Shiva’s attributes — matted hair, trishul, and moon — are present. The rocks in the backdrop resemble the linga.

Madhubani Art – Shiva in the mountains mourning Parvati

Ganesha is another popular subject. It is a bit different from the usual representations of Ganesha that we are used to.

Madhubani Art – Ganesha

These are ordinary people doing these paintings. But here is a technical one showing the seven chakras on a meditating ascetic. His eyes are wide open, in a state of heightened awareness and there is a halo around his head.

Madhubani Art – Khatchakra

Cows were worshipped by these artists. The picture of the pregnant cow, shows fertility, and is surrounded by flowers, buds and bees.

Madhubani Art – A pregnant cow

Finally, these artists were not just looking at representing their gods, but also important contemporary events. So here is the Narendra Modi arriving in a village to cheering woman supporters.

Madhubani Art – Prime Minister Modi arriving in a village via helicopter

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