India is a land rich with ancient culture and art. Madhubani Painting from Bihar is one among those cherished crafts of India, practiced for ages, found mostly in the state's Mithila region. Madhubani is a unique style of painting characterized by geometrical patterns and natural dark hues. Though its name translates to ‘Forest of Honey’, the art holds religious importance due to its depiction of Hindu god Krishna and Ramayan episodes. Women from the area decorate their house walls and doors with Madhubani painting on special occasions of birth, marriage, festivals like Holi, Surya Shasti, Upanayana, Durga puja, etc. The ritual is believed to please God, hence bring in peace and prosperity.
The unique visual art holds five distinctive variations in its pattern, popularly known as Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar. The characteristic that makes Madhubani painting stand out from others is its use of natural colours extracted from items like turmeric for yellow, indigo for blue, Kusum flower for crimson, rose for red, lime for green, etc. These colours are then mixed with a paste of cow dung and mud to have a better texture. Nowadays, inspirations from Madhubani art can be found in clothing like sarees, dupattas, salwar suits, etc. And it is also being created on paper, canvas, wall hangings, and more.
The origin of this art traces back to the Ramayana era. It is believed that King Janaka invited many artists to adorn the kingdom with this decorative art on the occasion of daughter Sita’s marriage. Until 1930, anyone outside the Mithila region hardly knew about this style. Later in 1934, when Bihar suffered a significant earthquake, William G. Archer, a British Officer, got to find the art on the area's damaged walls, thus encouraging and reviving it. By the late 1970s, the art had caught international and national attention, and the artists were flooded with orders from art dealers. Internationally, Japan valued the art the most; people of Japan are very familiar with India’s Madhubani painting and hence have set up The ‘Mithila Museum’, in Tokamachi hills of Japan to treasure 15,000 rare Madhubani paintings. The paintings are widely regarded and respected in other parts of the world as well.
Sita Devi, Jagdamba Devi, and Bharati Dayal are India’s most renowned Madhubani artists, all holding various India's prestigious awards. Bharati Devi’s works can be found on the Ministry of External Affairs interiors, Ministry of Commerce, US Embassy, Norway’s Museum of Eminence, to name a few. Many non-profit organizations are dedicated to preserving this art across the country, mainly from the cities of Bengaluru, Delhi, and Bihar. They work with Madhubani artists to promote and support their skills.