The history of ethnic paintings in India can be traced back to the Bhimbatka Caves, where some of the earliest paintings of India are found. But when it comes to ethnic 'tribal' paintings of India the names which top the list are Warli paintings and Madhubani paintings.
Madhubani paintings, also known as Godhna, Maithili and Chitra figure paintings, originated out of the humble domestic rituals in Madhubani district of Bihar. Chiefly prevailing in Madhubani district, it also diffused to the adjacent districts of Jetwarpur, Ranti, Rasidpur, Bacchi, Rajangarh, etc.
As per the belief of the people of Madhubani that Gods visit each house in the morning to bless them with luck and prosperity, Madhubani paintings started as a welcome painting on the walls, doors and floors for the Gods. Till the 1960s it was a purely a decorative art. But the Bihar famine of 1964-65 took its toil on the people of Madhubani and they had to shift from agriculture to other forms livelihood. And with that started the commercialization of the Maithili paintings; it shifted from walls and floors to paper, satin, sarees, dupattas, etc, without deviating from its original themes, the themes of religion and mythology. Most of the people of Madhubani now depend on these paintings for their daily necessities.
A paste of cow dung and mud is applied on the walls and floors to give a perfect black background on which pictures are drawn with white rice paste; bright vegetable colors are then applied on the figures making them more vibrant. A great number of Madhubani painters still apply a thin layer of cow dung and mud paste on their canvases to give a more authentic look and also because it helps in proper absorption of color.
Essentially practiced by the women folk, Madhubani is an exclusively feminine school of folk painting. As a respite from their daily home-engineering they portrayed their visions, beliefs, customs and creativity with abstract figures, mostly in linear patterns. This school, however, is not confined to the feminine genre now, as the number of male painters is increasing with each passing day.
Thematically, Madhubani paintings are mostly based on religion and mythology. The religious themes are branched into two types - little tradition and great tradition. In the paintings of little tradition, Gods like Raja Salesh, Buddheshwar, Jutki Malini, Reshma, and the likes occurs in abundance. Great tradition is a tribute to the Hindu Gods like Krishna-Radha, Shiva-Parvati, Ganesha, Maa Durga, and the likes. Nevertheless, natural scenes of villages, everyday life, flora and fauna which are so much a part of life of this school of painters, also entered the domain of Godhna paintings.
The attributes characterizing almost all Madhubani paintings are :-
? Use of bold natural and artificial colors.
? A double line border with simple geometric designs or with ornate floral patterns on it.
? Symbols, lines and patterns supporting the main theme.
? Abstract-like figures, of deities or human.
? The faces of the figures has large bulging eyes and a jolting nose emerging out of the forehead.
Madhubani painting is an emblematic expression of day-to-day experiences and beliefs. As such, symbolism, simplicity and beauty hold them together in a single school of traditional art. The symbols that these Maithili painters use have their specific meanings as, for instance, fish symbolize fertility, procreation and good luck, peacocks are associated with romantic love and religion, serpents are the divine protectors.
The treatment of colour in the Indian folk art form of Madhubani painting brings it somewhat close to the Impressionistic school and the Post-Impressionistic school of painting. To some extent their theme of trivial daily activities and nature are also shared by the Godhna painters.
Characterized by vibrant use of color, underlying symbolism and traditional geometric patterns supporting the main theme, the Indian folk art form of Madhubani succeeded in creating a place for itself in the international house of fame and is now recognized world wide. The Government of India is also paying its tribute by starting training programs educating people on Madhubani paintings.
Madhubani Paintings - An Indian folk art form ethnic to the core with International recognition.