Madhubani, a village nestled in the State of Bihar,
literally translated means the forest of honey. According
to legends, d
honey from the beehives lent the name to the village.the presence of a forest in the vicinity
of this rural hamlet from where the villagers gathere
The village is acclaimed worldwide for its folk paintings
called Madhubani paintings or Maithil Paintings.Madhubani
paintings were done by the womenfolk on the walls
of the houses at the auspicious occasions. Women from
the castes of Maithil Brahmins and Maithil Kayasths
were the primary practitioners of this folk painting.
The special occasions were the januar', a
sacred thread ceremony when a boy became an adult member,
the gosain ghar i.e. the dedication or renovation
of the family shrine, festivals such as Chhath, Chauth
Chand, and the Devathan Ekadasi, the first marriage
when the bride and the groom were formally linked and
the second marriage when they entered the actual married
For the first three occasions the corridors and the
goasin ghar were embellished with paintings of gods
and goddesses. And for the latter two occasions mural
paintings were done in the kohbar or the marriage chamber
at the bride's house. The married couple stayed
in the kohbar for a week and an oil lamp was placed
that burned day and night.
There was predominant use of gods and goddesses and
auspicious symbols in the bridal chamber. It was considered
necessary to include all the main gods and goddesses in the paintings so that they can shower their blessings
on the newly weds. Divine couples like Shiva and Parvati,
Vishnu and Lakshmi, Ram and Sita, Radha and Krishna
along with Jagannatha trio, Ganesha, Durga and Kali
were illustrated on the walls. Often, the bride and
groom were also depicted whereby they could also become
a part of the auspicious scene.
The symbols like ring of lotuses ( kamalban or purain)
and bamboo (bans) tree were commonly used to decorate
the walls. It is interesting to note that both the symbols
are associated with the fertility and progeny. The other
symbols included, moon, a source of heavenly nectar,
to ensue a long life, sun to fertilize and impregnate,
turtles to bring beneficent powers to the matrimonial
alliance, parrots to symbolize bride and bridegroom
and fishes to help in fertility.
Besides these, four joganis or servants of Durga are
also illustrated in each corner of the room to prevent
anyone from casting negative spell on the bride and
The painting was executed on smooth mud walls plastered
with cow dung. Often, a coat of whitewash was also applied
before actually starting the process of the painting.
Traditionally, vegetable colors mixed with oil and milk
or gum were employed. The primary colors in the madubani
paintings were pink, yellow, blue, red, green, black
and white. A piece of rag tied to a twig or a sliver
of bamboo frayed at the end was used as a brush.
At the time of decorating the wall, women of the household
and even from the neighborhood used to come together,
the most experienced woman used to take the charge and
drew outlines of the figures. Once, the outlines were
sketched the other women used to fill in the colors
in the shapes. Young girls were usually assigned the
task of holding the pots of paint and preparation of
paintbrushes. The idea was that they should get well
acquainted with the ritual and technique of painting
by the time they leave for their husbands house.
It is worth mentioning that some households maintained
memoirs in which the designs were recorded for the posterity.
The designs for the God Brahma, lotus ring, Krishna,
and the panel of gods were contained in the memoirs.
The daughter when left for her husbands home usually
carried these prized possessions and also adopted the
idioms from her mother-in laws home.
As mentioned earlier that the chief exponents of the
Madhubani Paintings were the women from the Maithil
Brahmin and Maithil Kayasth hence an individual style
of both is easily identifiable.
Maithil Brahmins paintings can best be described as
casual collection of figures, which seem to float like
aimless creatures in a single flat plane yet gracefully
harmonize with each other in the picture space. There
is ample use of the blues, yellows, pinks, and reds
in these fantasy paintings where the figure seems to
have a waiving vitality.
While, Maithil Kayasth paintings
appear to be tightly bound into panels with patterned
frames or ranged in long processions round the walls.
The chief colors, which were used, were bluish gray,
ochre, madder and black in the paintings, which were
executed in complicated patterns. The figures were fleshy
and rotund in nature.
It was a creative media to reach the divinity and bows
one head in deep reverence for his blessings and goodness.
Madhubani Paintings continue to fascinate all an one
for their lively yet innocence depiction of themes which
are humane on one hand and divine on the other hand.