Art is synonymous with the celebration of life and its gifts. In India Art and Culture thrived under different rulers and off late under the patronage of the Government of India. Among various painting styles, in India, Mithila painting is one of the most prominent styles of painting. This painting style originated from the Mithila region of Bihar and the adjoining parts of Nepal. Mithila Paintings are a proud example of an art form reborn amid disasters and deaths.
Folklores trace the origin of this art to the marriage of Lord Ram and Sita. Janak, the king of Mithilachal and the bride’s father, ordered people to decorate mud walls of their houses with paintings of mythological events and geometrical patterns for the celebration. Since then every wedding and festival has followed the ritual of decorating the rooms and walls with Kohbar paintings and intricate designs in bright colors. The wall art, locally known as “Bhitta Chitra”, became a cultural tradition over the centuries.
The painting, however, was only a domestic ritual and was unknown to the outside world until the massive Bihar earthquake of 1934. House walls had tumbled down, and the paintings on the interior walls of the homes were exposed. The beauty of the paintings fascinated and stunned the British colonial officer in Madhubani District, William G. Archer who was inspecting the damage. Then in a 1949 article in the Indian art journal, Marg, he brought the wall paintings to public attention and is rightly credited with the “discovery” of Mithila Paintings.
The paintings saw their second birth after the Great Famine of Bihar in 1962. Social activist Mr. Bhaskar Kulkarni sent by Pupul Jaykar, a known cultural activist, noticed the paintings and came up with the idea of bringing them onto papers and clothes as an income generating project. The paintings were well received and proved a hot cake for the Central Cottage Industry Emporium, Delhi. The art lovers were baffled by the rich culture and the contrasting traditions of ‘line painting’ and ‘color painting’ in this art. This success inspired numerous painters and also paved its way to immortal glory.
You will be amazed to know Mithila painting is mostly done by women and girls without any formal training. Mithila had long been famous in India for its rich culture and numerous poets, scholars, and theologians – all men. Today, the paintings have given the daughters of Mithila self-dependence and a new identity and it is endearing to see the beauty of the paintings reflect the numerous sacrifices women make for their families and the utmost love behind those sacrifices.
The themes of these paintings have always been the mythological events, social activities, festivities and subtle geometrical patterns. The paper is first applied with a light base color of cow dung to make the paintings look natural and give a feel of Wall Painting. After outlining the work, natural colors are filled in. The extraction of natural colors is a very tedious job where they collect fruits, flowers, leaves and roots of the plant and then it is boiled. After boiling it is mixed with naturally extracted gum from Babool plant. Drawing a full size painting takes around two weeks to get completed.
Numerous artists have bagged awards and accolades like Padmshree, Guru Shreshtha Shilpa, National Awards, Bihar Ratna and many more. The prominent figures are Late Padmshree Sita Devi, Late Padmashree Jagdamba devi, Late Padmashree Ganga Devi, Late Padmashree Mahasundari Devi, Shrimati Godavri Dutta, Shilpa Guru Smt. Bauwa Devi, Late Smt. Chano Devi, Smt. Indu Devi, Shree Krishnanand Jha, Shree Sanjeev Jha, Shree Pawan Jha, Shree Mithilesh Kumar Jha and Shree Prabhat Kumar Jha.
Mithila Paintings are symbolic of our ancient mythology, rich culture and the spirit of life itself which brings new hopes in even the most torrid times. It’s a matter of pride to have Mithila Painting on your walls.