Unmatched art and unique craftsmanship find expression in
each and every aspect of the life of the people of Bihar. The folk
paintings of the women of Mithila are the exclusive monopoly of the women
artists. The Brahmans and the Kshatriyas pictorial style is
known as MITHILA.
Mithila paintings are famous the world over for their intricate designs and motifs. The origin of the Mithila painting seems very ancient, although it is impossible to exact its date of origin.
The studies about tribal art tend to show formal similarities with the ancient drawings found in some grottos. Thus the origin of some of the motifs still used by the tribal communities have roots from a very ancient times.
The Feminine Realm
The women of Mithila are largely illiterate and these exquisite paintings created for ritual ocassions are a means of their cultural expression. They cover their courtyard walls in abstract images in brilliant colours.
Considered to be a communal activity, in which women are allowed to assist, these folk paintings are the domain of the women of the region. Young girls are encouraged to learn the art in their childhood. This enables them to learn early and pick up the tricks of the trade.
The theme of these paintings mainly revolves around the mythological characters. Rarely does one see them without religious implication. The paintings are largely devoted to female deities Durga, Kali and Gauri. Goddess Durga atop her tiger is a common representation. Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth, is a newer and common addition to the repertoire of Mithila symbolism.
Among the male deities Ganesha, Krishna and Shiva are more commonly depicted. Trees, birds and animals are extensively used in combination with other ritual and religious paintings. Probably the most powerful symbolism is the one associated with Duragoman Puren. The snake goddess is also very often depicted in the paintings.
In The Backdrop Of A Wedding
The art of Mithila is linked to religious ceremonies, particularly marriage and its consequence, procreation.
The bride and groom are pulled away by the women for their own ceremonies devoted to Gauri in which men other than the groom are forbidden. Gauri is the goddess to whom the bride has prayed since childhood to bring her a good husband. These ceremonies are performed in courtyards before painted images of the goddesses. The function of the paintings being ritualistic, the art is very symbolic.
The Art Made Famous
The women of Mithila, who are highly talented in their art, have made the art of this region a subject of artistic acclaim, the world over. Realising the artistic worth of the paintings, in the 1960s, some local officials took the initiative to popularise the art by making the women put some of their paintings on paper, which finally led the creation of a worldwide market for their creations.
It is a mild irony in Mithila that the fame of the women has surpassed that of the men, because Mithila Art, otherwise known as Madhubani Paintings also, is now recognised throughout the world.