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Madhubani/Mithila Paintings 

Madhubani/Mithila Paintings

Madhubani/Mithila Painting is a traditional art form from the Mithila region in Bihar, India. It’s known for its vibrant colors, cool patterns, and unique figures. People love using Madhubani paintings to add a pop of color to their walls, floors, and furniture. Besides being decorative, these paintings are also used to tell religious stories and illustrate texts.

What is Madhubani Painting?

Madhubani painting, also called Mithila painting, is a beautiful folk art style that comes from the Mithila region in Bihar, India. It’s known for its lively colors, intricate geometric patterns, and the use of natural dyes. These paintings often tell stories from Hindu mythology, showcase nature, and depict everyday life scenes. Women in the Mithila region, across generations, are the talented creators of these vibrant artworks.

History and Origin of Madhubani Art

  • Madhubani paintings are believed to have originated during the time of the Ramayana when King Janaka commissioned artists to depict his daughter Sita’s wedding.
  • Surprisingly, these unique artworks were only discovered in 1934 by a British Colonial Officer named William G. Archer. He stumbled upon them while inspecting earthquake damage in Bihar, where these paintings adorned the interior walls of homes.
  • Originally, Madhubani art was created on mud walls or soil ground during special occasions, only to be erased the next day. Unfortunately, this meant that these beautiful works were not preserved.
  • During a severe drought, the All India Handicrafts Board encouraged the women of the Madhubani district to create paintings on more durable surfaces like canvas, paper, or fabric as a means of earning a living.
  • Since then, Madhubani painting has evolved in various ways, with Indian artists taking this traditional art form to a global audience. The colors used in these paintings are often vibrant, employing pigments like lampblack and ochre to create striking black and brown shades.
  • What makes Madhubani paintings even more fascinating is the use of unconventional tools. Instead of modern brushes, artists use materials such as twigs, matchsticks, and even their fingers to create these intricate designs.


  • Madhubani paintings come in different sizes, ranging from large frescoes to small miniatures.
  • These paintings are known for their vibrant colors and intricate patterns, featuring line drawings that are filled in with bright contrasting hues.
  • Artists use a division of horizontal and vertical sections in Madhubani paintings to depict different times and places.
  • The simplicity of Madhubani paintings is highlighted by the use of natural materials for colors and brushes.
  • Various themes are depicted in these paintings, including royal court scenes and social gatherings like weddings.
  • Geometrical patterns play a significant role in Madhubani paintings, adding a touch of sophistication and uniqueness.
  • Traditional Madhubani paintings often showcase ceremonial themes related to festivals and religious rites.
  • In paintings featuring gods and goddesses, the bodies are sometimes distorted and foreshortened, especially in depictions of Radha-Krishna and Ganesha.
  • Faces in Madhubani paintings are typically shown in profile, but the eyes are uniquely painted in a frontal view, usually done last in the artistic process.


Some significant symbols commonly seen in Madhubani paintings are:

  • Fish: The fish symbolizes fertility, prosperity, and good fortune. It represents the presence of Goddess Laxmi. Fish are often depicted in pairs in Madhubani art.
  • Lotus flower: The lotus flower symbolizes purity, enlightenment, and spiritual unfolding. It is associated with the deity Lord Vishnu.
  • Peacock: The peacock represents beauty, grace, and royalty. It symbolizes immortality because its feathers don’t decay even after the peacock dies.
  • Sun and moon: The sun and moon represent opposing yet complementary energies of masculine and feminine, light and darkness. 
  • Elephants: Elephants symbolize strength, wisdom, and good luck. They also represent royalty and are seen as protectors. 
  • Snake: Snakes, especially coiled ones, represent eternity and the cycle of life. They also symbolize and protect against evil forces.
  • Tiger: The tiger symbolizes courage, power, valor, and ferocity. It is seen as a protector and guardian of Madhubani art.
  • Mango tree: The mango tree represents fertility, fortune, and abundance. Its fruits are a symbol of joy, health and prosperity.
  • Crow: The crow often seen perched on a mango tree symbolizes wisdom, intelligence, and alertness.


      Madhubani Paintings are known for their simplicity, using brushes and colors often made from natural materials. The artists create these vibrant works using powdered rice, and the colors come from turmeric, pollen, paints, indigo, flowers, sandalwood, and various leaves. The artisans craft the colors themselves by blending and treating these natural sources. After completing a painting, if there are any empty spaces, artists often fill them with charming motifs like flowers, animals, birds, and geometric patterns. The borders are typically outlined with a double line, adding a finishing touch to these beautiful creations.

      Read Also: Renati Cholas

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