The Madhubani painting that you see on this page depicts a standing Hayagreeva. He is chaturbhujadhari, the one possessed of (‘dhari’) four (‘chatur’) arms (‘bhuja’), and dressed in a dhoti and angavastram. Princely adornments grace His neck and wrists. But for the left anterior hand which is bare, He holds a pothi, a lotus, and a noose (anti-clockwise) in His hands. His head is turned to one side to reveal to the onlooker the lateral profile of His equine face. There is great depth and calm in the eye of Lord Hayagreeva.
In keeping with the traditional style of this folk art form, the palette is limited to two colours - dense black lines and closed curves against a canvas of yellowish cream and a background of thick brushstrokes in bright ochre. A halo made of filled-in concentric circles, whose diametre is half the stature of the figure. Skewed proportion of form coupled with high-precision workmanship make this a characteristic yet exceptional composition.
Madhubani painting is also known as Mithila art as it is practiced
in the Mithila region of India and Nepal. It has specifically
originated from the Madhubani district of the state of Bihar.
Traditionally, the women of this region created these paintings
and in recent years, it has become a widely practiced art and has
now become renowned throughout the world. This art expresses the
creativity and culture of the people of Mithila and is passed from
one generation to another. In this way, the heritage of Madhubani
art has been preserved for many decades.
The subjects of these paintings are usually religion, love, and
fertility. Sometimes, social events like festivals, weddings, and
royal court are also depicted in the paintings. The most commonly
painted designs and themes are the forms of Hindu Gods and
Goddesses such as Ganesha, Shiva, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Krishna, and
Ram. The characteristic features of Madhubani paintings are their
vibrant colors and eye-catching geometrical patterns. The empty
spaces are filled with traditional motifs such as floral and
foliate patterns, animals, birds, geometrical structures, and
other designs. The local artists create these paintings using a
variety of items such as matchsticks, twigs, brushes, pens, or
even their own fingers. The paints are usually made with natural
dyes and pigments.
As simple as it may seem, the making process of the world-famous
Madhubani paintings is certainly not easy and requires lots of
Traditional Madhubani paintings are done either on cloth,
handmade paper, or canvas. Select the medium of painting as per
your choice. If you have chosen cloth, attach it to cardboard to
make a solid base.
The making of the painting begins with making a double-lined
border. This is a very important step because the border is
filled with various geographical shapes and patterns or other
motifs. The average width of the border is 1.5 - 2 cm.
Now that the border is created, you will be left with a blank
middle space. This is the main workspace. Start drawing your
choice of figure, designs, and shapes. These must be relevant to
the Madhubani painting themes.
When the key design has been made, the empty spaces in between
are filled with some designs.
Now is the time to color the painting using vivid shades and
hues. Colors in Madhubani are sourced from nature; Indigo is
used to produce blue, flower juice produces red, turmeric gives
yellow, leaves produce green, cow dung mixed soot gives black,
and rice powder gives white.
To paint these colors, the artist uses a bamboo stick and wraps
cotton around it. This acts as a traditional brush.
The entire painting is now painted using this special brush with
natural vibrant colors. · However, in modern times, the common
brush is used and instead of natural colors, artists prefer to use
Since the entire painting is made with natural materials and
colors, it appears simple yet enriching. Originally, this art was
created on mud walls or soil grounds but when it evolved over many
years, the people of Madhubani started to make it on fabric and
paper. Today, this art has become globalized and is receiving
worldwide attention and appreciation.
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