Felicitous Carousing

“कौशिकीतु समारभ्य गण्डकीमधिगम्य वै ।
योजनानि चतुर्विशद्यामः परिकीर्तितः ।।१२।।
गंगा प्रवाहमारभ्य यावत् हैमवतंवनम्
विस्तार षोडशः प्रोक्तो देशस्य कुलन्दन ।।१३।।
(‘प्रेमनिधि’ पं. अवधकिशोरदास श्रीवैष्णव–‘श्री मिथिला–माहात्म्य, पृष्ठ–१२)

The cultural region of Mithila is typically located by scholars in the Terai region at the foothills of the Himalayans between Nepal and India. Mithila has its own beauty, style and presentation. The area is surrounded by the Ganga river to the south, the Himalayas to the north, Kaski & Gandaki rivers to the east & west has been known as the home of the ancient Mithila kingdom.

Nepali Art and the culture are the gifts to the world. The folk arts of various ethnic cultures are the ornaments of Nepal. It has made Nepal a prosperous land in art and culture. The contribution of folk art and the artists has been invaluable to make our country culturally rich. All ethnic groups have their own culture and tradition.

According to the Santosh Kumar Singh “Mithila folk painting is an amalgamation of its exclusive forms, inclusive contents, rhythmic color combinations and formulaic styles. The subtle and stout liones, geometrical shapes and sizes, as well as curve and round posture determine the basic pattern of Mithila art. It is the representational outline that distinguishes this sort of painting from the other work of art in the age of globalization. Although the symbolic figures are rooted in Hindu scriptures, the formats are still applicable to transmit issues of universal significance. The humanization of Mithila painting has further strengthened the age old practice of maintaining this unique layout”.

Mithila, Madhubani and Janakpur arts are going throughout these different words but depicting similar paintings, sketching patterns certainly raises confusions about the meanings of each of these arts. In fact, its again man made geographical debate which has tried to encompass an art by its respective geographical areas namely Mithila. It was Janak’s kingdom Mithila and Janakpur is the capital of Mithila. Since this whole area was in Janakpur hence Mithila paintings can be understood as Mithila the original name such art whereas Madhubani and Janakpur art as the localized names, how were these paintings depict a great variety in the hands of different cast artist, inference enough, similar them in sketched with a difference by different caste artist.

Nowadays, this art is also done on cloth, hand-made paper and canvas. The colors used are derived from plants.Generally no space is left empty; the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric designs.

Mithila painting is a traditional Nepali art form mostly done by women. Mithila paintings mostly depict nature and Hindu religious motifs, and the themes generally revolve around Hindu deities like Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Natural objects like the sun, the moon,nine planet and religious plants like tulsi, Bel patra, Bamboo and different type of flowers are also widely painted, along with scenes from the royal court and social events like weddings.
These paintings were usually made on the eve of important dates, to mark the ceremonies to be performed, like a wedding, festivals, religious events etc. The painting tradition varies from caste to caste. The art of Brahmins and Kayastha (the caste which once kept records for Brahmins) is closely tied to religious ritual, as exemplified in the making of Aripan. Traditionally, rice ground into paste was used to create these works of art, called Aripan .To make Aripan a women grinds rice with some water in to a paste called “Pithar” , dipping two fingers into the “Pithar” the artist makes beautiful geometrical design elements integrated into the Aripan. Artist dots the designs with yellow turmeric powerder and red sindur power. Women have a repertoire of such designs which may be drawn for worship of the house deity or for rituals related to marriage or a particular full of half moon day. While the imagery of the Kayastha and Brahmins tradition is perhaps the most refined and religious in character, painting is done by all the castes. The villages around Janakpur and Madhubani are their liveliest at the time of the autumn festivals of Deepawali and Chhath.

Mithila paintings have their characteristic sketches, color combinations, themes that collectively express the mithila attitude towards life, the experience and thoughts that govern Mithila way of living. Mithila paintings have meaningful importance.
“Aripan are mostly in the nature of semi geometric floral diagrams. Each diagram has a well-defines center on which an installation of scared pot plate, a basket or a seat is made for ritual purposes. The intricately patterned diagrams are dotted with vermilion at specific pints. Most of these are in the form of a lotus flower or plant. ” Jyotindra Jain: Expression in Mithila: Tradition and Painting.’
Mithila folk painting commemorates nature in its expression which further rejuvenated by the festivals and rituals observed throughout the year. It begins from Jurshital when people water their trees so that they could get coolness during scorching summer. Similarly Bat-Sabitri is a popular festival to worship nature/trees for ecological balance. Likewise Chhath (festival of worshipping Sun), Maghesankranti (festival of the importance of local food at the time of adversity), Sama-Chakeva (making idols using local resources, a festival of sister and brother) and many more practices of Mithila which is an agrarian society.

Dashain is the National festival where ‘Power’ is worshipped in different forms. All the deities with power are considered to have open eyes during this festival. The first day begins with the installation of Kalash & Jamara and ends with putting Tika by the elderly people to the younger. This festival is the symbol of victory over evils. Both male and female go to temple to worship Durga, Kali and Chandi with full devotion. Maithili people worship Durga making its mud sculpture with lots of ornamentation and colors. Some women fast for nine days for the purity of their body to worship the deities to fulfill their aspiration.
Deepawali is the second most important festival after Dashain in Nepal. This is the festival of light. In Mithila region, all the houses are made neat and clean and decorated with auspicious symbol of Hindu religion. Different kinds of drawing are portrayed on the walls so that Goddess of wealth Laxmi will visit the house for tremendous prosperity. The light is made at every corner of the house and children play with crackers.

Chhath is celebrated according to the lunar calendar in the month of Kartik. This festival is celebrated by worshipping the setting sun to the rising sun. It means Maithils value both dark and bright aspect of life. The sun god is worshipped so that it be available throughout the winter and provide warmth to people during the severing cold. It is also prayed to have sound health and recover from skin disease. Women mainly pray the God with full devotion for the wel-being of their family members.

Mithila art is the product of local ecological environment. Ecology of the locality is the root through which art is nourished for healthy production. In fact, the raw materials which are used while designing several art forms are taken out from local plants and they are used as colors, pigments, etc. In addition, the abundant use of plants as symbol to represent various mute feelings of human beings are other aspect of Mithila art to shape belief system of people. Traditionally, local ecology is the main source of livelihood of people. That is why people believe plants as their siblings, art as its diet to commemorate the natural biology of the surrounding. This is priceless property of Mithila Painting which must be protected by all means because all art forms are practical and symbolic expression of cultural intelligence. They carry a passive burden of assumed or inherited knowledge and an active burden of conscious knowledge which is intentionally communicated.

– S. C. Suman

published in Lalitkala Patrika January 2016