A 2500 old historical artwork takes it roots from the times of Ramayana Epic, where King Janaka, the king of Mithila asked artists to draw the marriage of King Rama with his daughter Sita. This art is prominent around the Mithila region of Bihar and Nepal. The specialty of this painting is the use of fingers, brushes, twigs, nib pens, brushes to bring a finesse on the strokes. Rice paste is used as a base and natural pigments and dyes are used for the painting. Themes that are commonly used include the natural elements of water, sky, greenery, birds, reptiles and animals along with geometrical shapes. Themes depicting royalty, weddings, celebrations are also common. One can see the paintings on the plastered mud walls and floors of huts in the villages of Bihar, but modern artists have used cloth, canvas, handmade paper, clay, steel tins to depict the art. In the modern era, this art is used on a variety of home decor, home accents, dresses, jewelry boxes, novelty gifts etc,. The people of Madhubani weren’t satisfied with this reach. They decided to use the artform to initiate social awareness and what a path they took!

In 2012, Arti Kumari along with some more artists started painting trees with hindu god and goddesses to save the trees from being cut. They decorated the bark of the trees with colorful Madhubani paintings, hoping that god-fearing people would not cut the trees. This has helped the artists protect the trees. Likewise, in the village of Ranti, several generations of women artists are teaching the womenfolk the art, educating them about the intricacies of the painting in order to continue this precious legacy. The works of these women have been commissioned by Government of India and applauded. Social awareness is a key theme of the paintings today – women artists are teaching their students to make their voices heard on social causes via this painting.

Unlike traditional Madhubani painting materials, the artists painting the tree use lime, glue and synthetic enamel paints to make it last on the tree for atleast three years. The cost involved was very high to protect the trees from animals and other threats, but it reduced the cutting of trees to zero percent.

In another initiative, women artists in madhubani started to paint on the walls of the Madhubani railway station of Samastipur division. Even though the railway department did not pay for their hardwork, they were provided with food and all the accessories like paint, brushes for the painting. The artists worked on a variety of designs based on the Ramayan, the Mahabharata, Sita bidai, Maakhan chor, Village haat and Chhath festival. There is also information that their next project would be to paint Madhubani painting on the walls of the Darbhanga station depicting the place’s history.

Inspired by the success of the railway station paintings, the Bihar government has come out with the idea of painting the walls of government buildings. This would mean more employment for these wonderful artists and will create more awareness among tourists too. In the near future, Madhubani painting will see development in various forms.

We could not but be overwhelmed reading the achievement of these wonderful women who are taking up social and environmental causes and using an art to solve them. Kudos to the women artists of Bihar!