Mithila Art

Mithila painting is an amalgamation of its exclusive forms, inclusive contents, rhythmic colour combinations, and formulaic styles. The subtle and stout lines, 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 works 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.

Each object with the Gods and Goddesses has some symbolic meaning that propels certain wisdom in the life of people. All those objects cast some deep philosophy of Hindu way of life. The humanistic attitude of artists makes their paintings like human beings where all the gestures and postures are counted for various meanings. The multiple of hands, space between the legs, largeness in the size of eye and head give out certain meaning for the observers. Mithila painting has unique tradition of drawing very big nose, only one big eye, and big chest to show vigor, hands are drawn more in number to show supremacy, legs are widen for attentiveness.

The wide-ranging issues of Mithila painting cover the areas from spiritual to secular, natural calamity to climate change, and gender to politics. Traditionally its source lies in Hindu epics which are still exploited to aware people through art on various challenging areas as well as to transmit age old philosophy of the society. The aesthetic sense and innovation while drawing the painting, has helped the artists to go beyond the limited boundary of the region that is further supported by the globalization. The artists have evolved themselves by painting Shiva-Parvati, Vishnu-Lakshmi, Sita-Ram, Radha-Krishna, and various other gods and goddesses with great originality and imagination to men ploughing the field and women working on jatta-dhikki (household works). On the one hand, artists depict how people suffer from flood and earthquake to change in weather because of industrialization and on the other, discriminatory attitude of society towards male and female to majority and minority distinction in current politics. I, myself, as an artist utilize traditional theme to communicate about climate change through the painting entitled ‘Circumbulating the Tree of Life’ that exemplifies how local theme affects global issue.

Similarly, metrical composition of painting through resonating colour combinations, glorify the works of art as vibrating which inclines this traditional painting towards fine art from the folk art. The artists make the image reveal its mood through the use of colour combination. Traditionally artists have been using colours extracted from the surrounding natural resources. These colors are frequently used which are very natural such as black from the soot, red from the local clay and yellow from petals of flowers. They prepare vegetable colours from different flowers, fruits, barks and roots of the gum prepared naturally from the Babul tree is mixed in the colour for durability. Black is generally obtained by lamp soot. It is easily dissolved in gum water. A light brown colour is obtained by mixing cow-dung and gum in fresh water. The bark of the Pipal tree is dried in the sunshine and then boiled in water till it yields a pink color. Blue color is obtained by crushing the berries of a wild herb. It is called sikkar in the local language. The juice of herb is collected in a cup and dissolved in gum and thereafter it is filtered through cloth. Dark green is made from the leaves of the Siam creeper and parrot green from the sepals of the Gulmohar. But recently acrylic and water colours from market have also been used as the painting has transformed from cultural attributes to commercial products. Generally, they use red and green and other bright and brilliant colours which make their paintings very pretty and at the same time very attractive.

The style of Mithila Painting is evolving continuously since its transformation (1960s) from mud walls and floors to paper and canvas. In the beginning artists of Brahman and Kayasth castes (Upper most castes in Mithila) practiced drawing by using Bharani (filling colours) and Kachani (bold lines) styles respectively. Brahman artists mostly use subtle lines and fill vibrating colours to make the image paramount. On the other hand, Kayastha artists use stout lines and subtle colours as their conventional style of painting. But the fast changing society and all the areas of production in 21st century have changed dramatically, that has also made the artists experiment with various techniques where caste wise distinction of styles are disappearing rather as a whole, Mithila artists use all the styles of the region according to their convenience. The proliferating styles are tantric, Godna (tattoo), Gobar (cowdung wash), Madhubani and Janakpur. The tantric style of painting focuses on geometrical shapes and sizes where every point, line, form, figure and outline carries meaning that affects the life of the observers. Similarly, Godna drawing was a custom most prolific during Middle age on the body parts of women and the same sort of drawings are depicted by the Mithila artists in their paintings in recent time. Likewise, artists wash the paper with cow dung and after drying it, they draw their images on it, this is called Gobar style. Madhubani style of painting is made title wise where one title is portrayed in a single panel at one time and the other on different designation at some other time. But Janakpur style of painting mostly portrays series of panels in a single painting that narrates interrelated themes on a large topic. However, Mithila artists employ all these styles in their paintings despite their caste variations and places of origin.

Mithila art reflects an ideal of social vision through its performance. In the course of this feat, it uses several icons, symbols, suggestives, and signs to convey its complex meaning vividly. While doing so, it does not clarify its implication only but also impress the viewer with some imperative messages. The interaction between observer and the works of art result into the interpretation of painting into many folds. The tapestry of connotation formed so, frame out a picture of the community where art is practiced collectively. The collective painting of Mithila does not only outline the social structure but also reveal the artists’ expressive tone to commemorate the life in the society. Hence, the entire social well being perpetrates because of the hand in hand attitude of people during cultural ceremony. But the artistic revelation hovers around the multifold meaning of the painting, empowerment of women via art, caste wise variation in style, and tantric influence in drawing the art of Mithila. Overall, the superlative performance of the artists overhauls the cultural nuances through the proper use of colors, styles and contents left behind by the interaction between the viewer and the products.

To sum up, Mithila art is original to its surrounding nature. It is an ancient, an indigenous and traditional one but it is getting modernized day by day. So its market value is increasing gradually. Consequently it is exposed to the outer world. This modern aspect of Mithila art is beautifully and tastefully depicted on t-shirt, tea mat, mirror, tray, paper stand, bags and baskets of different size and shape. It is also painted on pillow covers, bed sheets or covers, table cloths and on many household wares. It is also becoming a suitable source of income. Though this is called crafts and becoming means of foreign exchange, credit goes to the hardworking artists. But my special focus is to revive traditional techniques, natural pigments and aware people through aesthetic means of Mithila arts.