Archive for the ‘Madhubani Art’ Category

Creative Mithila

November 26, 2014

Starved of formal documentation, Mithila art is often faced with the challenge of how to sustain its preservation. Genuine artists often live and work in their silos and owe their visibility to philanthropic organizations. On the other hand, there are those who are bent at “commercializing” the art without truly appreciating what it stands for. The end result is that we are left with few  platforms where this art form is nurtured organically in a professional atmosphere.

While organizations such as Mithilangan are working hard towards preserving the broader construct of “Maithil” in multiple dimensions, there are some individuals whose efforts deserve mention and applause. For example, Nupur Nishith, a New Jersey based artist runs her website titled “Creative Mithila: The Popular Madhubani Art from India“. The art work posted on Creative Mithila depicts the art-form in a fashion which is as authentic as it is creative. The website is rich with vibrant, impressively executed art work. One could argue that compared to the traditional Mithila art work, Creative Mithila adds a contemporary twist. Yet, the improvisations seem deliberately subtle and quite successful in enhancing the originality. Besides, Bill Clinton once  wisely said: “…the price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” A remarkable feature of the website is its focus on documentation and description. Some descriptions, such as the one on “Navagrah” are quite elaborate. …and guess why does Samanantar Mithilangan like it so much: it is all in English; the mother-tongue of internet! Some webpages await content while this article is being authored and we look forward to reading more about “styles, themes and symbols” from Nupur. Pretty well done, so far!


‘Documenting the Image in Mithila Art’

June 10, 2011

Abstracts from an article from VISUAL ANTHROPOLOGY REVIEW (Volume 22 Number 2 Fall 2006) authored by Carolyn Brown Heinz:

This article traces the documentation of ritual wall paintings by Maithil Brahmans and Kayasthas through the collecting practices of private individuals, libraries, and museums, the commercial practices of producing and marketing cultural products, and the interpreting practices of scholars and critics. These practices have come to focus on the output of a handful of celebrity artists in a few villages around Madhubani, gifted artists but not representative of the wide distribution of wall painting at all levels of the two castes. This paper turns to the oldest extant documentation—the 1940 photographs of William Archer and the previously undocumented 1919 paintings for the marriage of the daughter of Maharaja Rameshwar Singh—to demonstrate the importance and quality of wall paintings among all strata of Brahmans.

The full article can be downloaded by clicking here.

Mithila Painting Center

May 20, 2011

Mithila Training Centre began with the vision of Mr. Ram Kumar Das, a Mining Engineer by profession. Having lived all his life in the cities, he returned to his native village of Keoti in 2010 with a dream – to work for the upliftment and betterment of his community.

Visit this website for further details:

A Reference Grammar of Maithili

May 3, 2011

Free Preview the book

Author: Ramawtar Yadav

A comprehensive commentary on the history and background of Maithili language followed by a detailed description of grammatical features including (and not limited to): script, sound system, syntax, semantics, figures of speech and gender.

Madhubani Art

October 3, 2010

Madhubani Art has helped place the Maithil culture on the world map over the last few decades. The simple rustic themes depicted in beautiful ‘geometric in nature’ patterns have found universal appreciation. The contrast between detailed line work and solid block of colors ‘ a signature of the art form’ has transcended through time and has allowed for adaptation through the varied changing themes. Traditional themes have been Hindu mythology, rural life and plants and animals.

The pictures below show a few key features of Madhubani Art. The pointed nose and on a side depiction of the face is the usual order. It helps the artist clearly show facial expressions. Also note the note the detailed line work with double line edging.

Art work by: Tripti Shree

“Tantra and the Poetics of Mithila Art” | Article Review

May 22, 2010

This is a revised version of the original draft of the article review. We thank our readers for spurring the improvement.”

Dr. Carolyn Henning Brown, a scholar from California State University, Chico was funded by the National Endowment of Humanities in 1984 to study the Mithila art. Her study titled “Contested Meanings: Tantra and the Poetics of Mithila Art” was published in 1996 by “American Ethnologist”.
In her article, she quotes one of her Maithil consultants saying,”…foreigners go away and write whatever they want about us…”. If I was him, my reaction would have dittoed his, having looked at the descriptions of earlier studies in this paper. Henning does a great job of providing a review of earlier interpretations of the symbolism of Mithila art. A lot of them could also be categorized as ‘severe mis-interpretations’.

In general, the awareness about Mithila art is dangerously low among the maithil ‘intelligentia’. Moreover, as the old saying goes “ghar ki murgi…” (no one cares about domestic preciousness).  Moreover, the ‘progressive’ Maithil society would find it trendier to talk about Picassos and Van Goghs than what the rural ladies in the villages of Mithila are doing. That leaves sufficient room for western researchers to grab the opportunity. Some, like Dr. Brown, adopt a more careful approach while others do “what ever they want” in interpreting the art.

For those Maithils who are less educated about their own culture, Mithila art is a matter of family traditions at the very least. The art is almost owned by ladies of the house. The specification of  ‘parichaya’  by ‘panjikars’ as a documentation of ‘patri-lineage’ is a horribly flawed mis-specification. In fact, parichaya reflects as much of matri-lineage as it does of patri-lineage. Moreover, this art is a rather unifying factor in Maithil villages. I see no reason why studies on Maithil art should be overwhelmed by caste and gender based interpretations.  Also, what, after all, motivated researchers to find a “Tantrik” angle to this art form? Some other interpretations are equally bizarre. In one of the studies the vertical element in Kohvar has been compared to “phallus” congruent with Freudian theories. Dr. Brown questions such interpretations. She is also critical of W. G. Archer, the subdivisional British officer (1933-34) for his ‘blunt’ and ‘simple motifs’. Was not he the Christopher Columbus of Maithil art? Dr. Brown further describes the depiction of various animal forms in a Kayastha-style “Kohbar” painting which have been compared to “horror vacui” (an art form, literally meaning ‘fear of empty space’). Such interpretations,  seems to ignore  the aesthetics of the colorful patterns, content-richness and the harmony of geometrical shapes.

In all, her work is a bold one. While several contemporaries comfortably based their hypotheses on earlier studies (some of which have been criticized for mis-interpretations), she takes an independent, objective look. The article is, of course worth a read.

Here is the citation:
Brown, Carolyn Henning, “Contested Meanings: Tantra and the Poetics of Mithila Art,” American Ethnologist 23, 4 (November 1996), 717-37.

Also available at:

Slideshow: Mithila Art

April 30, 2010

Third-party embed from

Dr. Edward O. Henry

January 25, 2010

Dr. Edward O. Henry, then a professor of Anthropology at San Diego State University in California, USA conducted extensive research on the Maithil (and Bhojpuri) folklore.

His recording of Maithil songs was released in a CD volume titled ” Women’s Songs from India”. Some songs (e.g. “Gosauni” and “Samdaun” are available for online listening at

Stay tuned until we complete our research on Dr. Henry; and present to you his work on Mithila Culture…

Women’s Songs From India

Madhubani Art

December 31, 2009

Madhubani art has become an insignia of Maithil culture. This section is aimed at exploring the deeper aspects of the visual elements and philosophy behind this great art form.