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The General Characteristics of Madhubani Paintings: An Indian Folk Art

Updated on June 23, 2017
ChitrangadaSharan profile image

Chitrangada loves the richness of Indian art,culture and traditions. As a writer she wants to spread information about India to the readers

Madhubani paintings depicting a Wedding ritual
Madhubani paintings depicting a Wedding ritual | Source
Madhubani painting showing a princess
Madhubani painting showing a princess | Source

An introduction to Madhubani Paintings of India!

If you are an admirer of Indian Art, you must be familiar with the Madhubani paintings or the Mithila paintings.

Madhubani art has its roots in the Mithila region of Bihar state in Northern India.

It is also practised in Nepal which is very close to Bihar geographically.

It is basically a folk art and is made on mud walls or on floors of homes.

But it's beauty and popularity has spread beyond regions and now we see Madhubani paintings on fabrics, Sarees, dress materials, hand bags, crockery, wall hangings, canvas paintings and even on five star hotel walls and interiors.

Traditionally Madhubani art is done on various festivals, rituals during weddings, child birth and other special occasions or simply to decorate the walls.

The peacock in Madhubani paintings
The peacock in Madhubani paintings | Source

Basic characteristics of Madhubani Paintings!

  • Madhubani art has different styles, namely Bharni. Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, Kohbar.
  • The themes of drawings and paintings are mainly based on Gods and Goddesses, Sun, Moon, Stars, religious symbols like Om, good luck symbols, auspicious signs and others.
  • These paintings also highlight various birds and animals that have religious importance in Hindu religion such as elephants, peacocks, fishes and others.
  • Bamboo plants, Tulsi plants, mango leaves, lotus flower, Banyan and Peepal trees and other flora, fauna also have their significance in Madhubani art.
  • The original art when done on mud walls or hut floors is done by natural colours and natural dyes.
  • These may include dry rice powder or paste, vermillion, turmeric powder, sandalwood powder and other natural colours extracted from flower and fruits.
  • Basically the paintings are done with wooden twigs, fingers, matchsticks or any such thing found in homes.
  • One very popular way of doing this art is covering the edge of a thin wooden twig with a little piece of cotton and then draw with water and Ocher soil (Geru mitti in Hindi) Paste.
  • Since Madhubani paintings have been admired by many art lovers globally, nowadays permanent colours are used to create designs on canvas, fabrics, wall hangings and others.

Colourful flowers and leaves in Madhubani paintings
Colourful flowers and leaves in Madhubani paintings | Source

Basic characteristics of Mdhubani art!

  • Madhubani art is a combination of certain floral and geometrical designs and they also give a two dimensional view.
  • Generally no space is left empty.
  • Whatever space is left after drawing the main subject, whether to show a wedding, a bride or bridegroom garlanding each other, a peacock or a fish or any other thing--the rest of the space is filled with flowers. leaves design, or any other geometrical design.
  • Usually a border is drawn all along the painting. This could be square, round, rectangular or any other shape but everything is within a well decorated border.
  • Madhubani art is believed to date back to the times of Ramayan . It is believed that king Janak asked artists in those times to capture Sita's wedding to Ram.
  • And thus this art was practised on the mud walls and floors of homes all over the Mithila region.

Madhubani art showing birds
Madhubani art showing birds | Source
Madhubani paintings highlighting fish
Madhubani paintings highlighting fish | Source

Madhubani art is still relevant and valuable!

  • Ancient art, paintings or sculpture are generally a true indication of the culture and traditions of people living in those times.
  • Madhubani art is no different. But it has evolved and that too with a purpose.
  • It is so heartening to see the present day artists of this beautiful and great tradition focussing on burning social or political issues of today.
  • By this medium they try to convey a message to the people and the institutions.
  • Madhubani paintings based on womens's issues, reforestation, environment, about plant and animal life make them relevant and valuable in today's context as well.
  • One very noteworthy effort by the artists in this direction was making Madhubani paintings on big trees so people do not cut it.

The Ram-Sita Wedding in Madhubani paintings
The Ram-Sita Wedding in Madhubani paintings | Source
 Madhubani paintings on trees to convey a message and also prevent deforestation.
Madhubani paintings on trees to convey a message and also prevent deforestation. | Source

To conclude:

Traditionally only women were involved in this folk art. But now it is being done by men folks as well.

As other art forms , it is being carried on from one generation to the other .

It would not be wrong to say that this art form is now highly commercialised and not confined to a village or a particular region.

The Government of India has taken care and considerable steps to encourage the artists related to this folk art. The Handicrafts organisations of the government provides all the necessary assistance to provide raw materials and to market the finished work. Such that it becomes as a source of non agricultural income for many families in rural areas related to this traditional folk art.

© Chitrangada Sharan , June 21 , 2017

All Rights Reserved.

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Are you familiar with Madhubani art and paintings?

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Madhubani paintings, source: You tube

Madhubani paintings, source: you tube

Madhubani art on a pure silk saree
Madhubani art on a pure silk saree | Source
A pure silk Saree border with Madhubani art
A pure silk Saree border with Madhubani art | Source

© 2017 Chitrangada Sharan

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you, that is very fun to learn about.

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 4 weeks ago from India

      Though I was familiar with this lovely art form, I got to read the detailed information about it in this hub only. Such beautiful paintings these guys from Mithila draw that nobody can escape from the magical impression it leaves on the mind.

      I have one beautiful painting in my home, which I bought from Delhi Hat a few years back.

      ChitrangadaSharan, you've penned a fine article about a wonderful art of Mithila people. Thanks for sharing such a gem here.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 4 weeks ago

      I have always loved folk art, and I've been an admirer of this style of art for years, but I didn't know what it is called. Thanks for enlightening me. This is a very good article on Madhubani art. Isn't it neat on how men are now painting in this style. In Europe the old masters were all male, now western women have become artists in their own rights. Maybe this is part of the equalization of the energies by the Divine Feminine.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for the introduction to Madhubani Paintings. Made on mud walls or hut floors? That's very impressive. Cheers to the women who started this glorious work!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Such vivid colors. So beautiful! Thank you for introducing me to this artist.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very interesting and educational article. Thank you for teaching me about this lovely art form!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Ericdierker for reading and appreciating the hub! Glad you liked it!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Harish Ji for your kind visit and comments! Much appreciated!

      Yes these are beautiful traditions of India and I am so proud of it.

      I also draw Madhubani art at my home on various festivals such as Diwali, weddings, child birth etc. , since it's a part of my family traditions and considered very auspicious.

      Thank you and have a blessed day!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks MizBejabbers for your wonderful and valuable comments!

      I am glad you are familiar with this art and this hub helped you understand more about this.

      I have been making this since my younger days since it's a part of my family traditions.

      I liked your concluding line very much.

      Thanks a lot for your kind visit and appreciation!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank You MsDora for reading and appreciating the hub! Glad you liked the information.

      Yes it's so easy to create Madhubani designs on mud walls since this art is done with natural fruit and flower colours mixed with water. I have been doing this myself since long as it is considered auspicious on festivals, during weddings , child birth and other such special occasions and it's a part of family traditions.

      Thank You and have a blessed day!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank You Bill for appreciating the hub! Glad to share a part of Indian Art and tradition with the readers.

      Thanks and a good day to you!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Linda Crampton for reading and commenting on this hub! Much appreciated!

      Glad you found it informative!

      Have a great day!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      Chitrangada, though I am an art lover I had never heard of Madhubani painting/art. Thes paintings you shared are absolutely stunning pieces of artwork. Very impressive. Thanks for sharing.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank You Jodah for appreciating the hub and the Madhubani paintings!

      They truly are great pieces of art and it's so heartening to see that the tradition is still continuing and valuable too in today's context.

      Many thanks for your positive comments feedback!

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 4 weeks ago

      A very informative post! Loved the pictures you shared.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Shaloo for appreciating the hub! Glad you liked it. So good to read your comments!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 4 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting and informative hub. Even though I have seen these paintings many times in temples and houses, I came to know about the actual procedure of how they get created through your article. Thanks for sharing this wonderful knowledge.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Venkatachari Ji for reading and commenting on this article!

      We all know about the richness of Indian art and traditions. There are so many diverse kind of paintings that it's difficult to know all of them. But we love and appreciate all of them.

      I have a keen interest in paintings especially the ancient styles and it's a pleasure to see that they are being carried on by the next generations. And the government 's efforts to preserve them through exhibitions and financial support to artists is praiseworthy.

      Thanks a lot for your positive feedback and regards!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 weeks ago from Nashville Tn.

      I'm drawn and attracted to Madhubani art and styles. Folk art truly resonates with me. Very interesting to learn from you just how this art is created. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I would love to have a painting. The photos are so lovely.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Audrey for your kind words of appreciation! i know you are an artist at heart, so naturally you appreciate art of any kind.

      Madhubani paintings are very creative and expressive. I love to make them on special occasions at my home.

      Appreciate your positive feedback . Have a wonderful day!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Beautiful art! I had no idea of this art. This art form is incredible!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank You Devika! Appreciate your kind visit and valuable feedback!

      Have a great day!

    • Debangee Mandal profile image

      DEBANGEE MANDAL 2 weeks ago from India

      Thank you for sharing these timeless paintings.

      Loved it!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank You Debangee for your kind visit and appreciation of the hub!

      Glad you liked it!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 10 days ago from Texas

      Chitrangada, thank you for sharing the art of your beautiful country, I had not heard of the art form before.

      Blessings my friend.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 10 days ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank You Shyron for reading and appreciating the folk art !

      Glad to read your positive comments!

      Thanks and good day to you!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 days ago from England

      So pretty and awesome Chitrangada, I love these! I have Indian pictures on my wall and ornaments too, so these are amazing! wonderful hub!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 7 days ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank You Nell for reading and appreciating the paintings and this Indian folk art! Glad to know about your interest in Indian art.

      Thanks and have a blessed day!

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