DSA Spotlight 1 – “Madhubani Painting”

DSA has chosen Madhubani OR Mithila Painting style as the inaugural article in this series of articles on the ‘Indian Folk Painting Styles’.

DesseinAllStudio Hand painted Tote


Madhubani OR Mithila art form acquired its name from the kingdom of Mithila where it originated around the seventh century A.D. At that time, the region was a vast plane located primarily in what is now eastern India as well as in southern Nepal. However, the cultural center and capital of the region was in what is now the city of Janakpur, Nepal only 20 kilometers from the Indian border. Janakpur is of course the home of Janakpur painting while the town of Madubani, India is home of paintings of the same name. Mithila art consists of both kinds of paintings of which Madubani are more common.

The tradition of wall paintings as well as surface paintings for beautification of dwellings and ritual purposes in Mithila is believed to have survived from the epic period. These decorations are mythological murals, added with deities of Hindu pantheon, besides regional flora and fauna. The women artists, according to the old age tradition, are the sole custodians who practice this folk painting passing down for generations from mother to her daughter.

In Mithila, painting is normally done by women folk in three forms:

  • painting on floor,
  • painting on wall and
  • painting on movable objects.
  1. Aripan, under the first category, is made on the floor with the paste of arva (crude) rice. This rice paste is called pithar in the local language. Apart from the floor it is also made on banana leaves and wooden seats, an aripan is made with dry rice powder in white, yellow and red colours. Astadala, sarvatobhadra, dasapata and swastika are its main varieties.
  2. Wall paintings are multicolored. Three to four colors are usually used to depict the wall paintings. Motives:  nayana-jogini, carrier of fish, curd, jackfruit, trees of fruits such as mango and pomegranate and birds like peacock. Attractive floral motifs adorn the wall on three sides of the entrance.
  3. Paintings on movable objects include those on clay models of pots, bamboo structure, mat and fan.  Motives:  elephants, birds, sikki.

Coloring materials

black – soot.

yellow -pollen / turmuric

red – clay / Madder

Indian red (sindoor) – iron oxide

blue – indigo

Mithila (Madhubani) Art as a communication Technology

Although Mithila art did not directly lead ancient India to a conventional sense of literacy nor to formal education of the masses, it did give a voice to the voiceless. As a communication technology, it provided something for those artists that was and remains a critical element of their society: a heightened consciousness.

Long before there were computers in most of our homes, there was Mithila Art in homes of what is now India and Nepal. Originally, this folk art form mainly consisted of lively murals painted on the walls of homes in rural villages. But it was much more than simple art for art’s sake. This was art that gave a voice to powerless rural women as a communication technology.

By Ryan Bartlett

Madhubani Wall Art

Madhubani Wall Art

Madhubani and Mithili painting style is also famous as Gond painting style which is named after its location on the bank of the Godavari river.

Herewith this article we are trying to give exclusive Indian folk art painting styles a spotlight. Hope you will find it helpful. Let us know how you like it and we are open for Q&A… So enjoy all …


Reference Links


Text Technologies Writers Blog

Mithila Paintings: Past Present & Future by Dr. Kailash K. Mishra

Crafts In India

Tribal Arts Of India

Madhubani Art Centre

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