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History

The history of Madhubani paintings goes back to the time of Ramayana the ancient epic in Sanskrit (Indo- Aryan language). This epic is thought to have been compiled between approximately 400 BC and 200 BC. It is attributed to the Hindu sage Maharishi Valmiki and forms an important part of Hinduism (the religion of the majority in India).As per Ramayana, lord Rama got married to Sita (daughter of king Janak who lived in Mithilanchal region of that era). King Janak commissioned artists to do paintings on floors and walls to celebrate the marriage. Since then, this skill has been transferred from generation to generation and this unique art has survived all odds These paintings mostly depict nature and its relation with humans and the harmony between the two. Hindu religious figures and natural objects like sun, moon, and religious plants like tulsi are also drawn. Besides this, scenes from the royal court and social events like weddings are also widely drawn. Women of upper castes like Brahmins and Kayasthas were painting the figures of Hindu Gods like Krishna, Radha, Ganesha etc. and women of lower castes were painting animals, plants and human life and scenes from day to day work. Every member of the family teaches their daughter/ daughter-in-law this art as a traditional skill. And those who are not formally taught, automatically learn by observation. They participate in the festivals and see what their mothers draw on each occasion. Originally this art has been used as four kinds in Hindu religion:

 

On the occasion of Mundan (first head shave of the new born baby) and Churakarn or Upnayan (the ritual where a sacred thread is tied on the body of male child, especially in upper castes), women and girls of the family draw the painting of various Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu religion along with birds, animals, fish, snake, flower, tree plants etc on the wall for decoration.
The Painting drawn as "Aripan" (line painting on floors) on different festival and other religious days of Mithila.
After a Hindu marriage ceremony, vermillion colour powder is applied between the partitions of hair of all women. This is a sign of married women in Hindu religion. This vermillion is brought to the bride’s house for the first time on a paper that has paintings in red colour and folded in a special form during the marriage ceremony. The vermillion is used at four different occasions during the night of marriage. Out of four the vermillion of one painting is put in the partition of hair of bride (for the first time) by the bridegroom is called as "Sindurdan" other one is used on 4lh day after marriage called "Chaturthi". On the marriage occasion the reserve room for the bridegroom and where the bride & bridegroom meet first time with one-another is called "Kohbar" and the Kohbar painting is drawn on the east wall of the room. It is also said that a girl is considered for marriage on the basis of her skills in the art/painting.
When the bride comes to her husband’s house for the first time, a ceremony called "Dwirangman" is performed. On this occasion the bride wears a sari of yellow colour having kohbar painting gifted by her in-laws.

The most popular drawing since old age has been 'KOHBAR', 'ARIPAN' and 'PASAHIN”. At present the existing Madhubani Paintings are locally called as:-

1. Mithila Line Painting (Previously it was Aripan of Floor Painting & Papers)

2. Mithila Colour Painting (Previously it was called as Bhittichitra, Wall Painting )

3. Godna Painting (Pasahin, human body painting)

4. Harijan Painting (Raja Salhes/king of lower caste and other Harijans/lower caste Life Subject)

5. There are a few rare artisans still making one special type of painting based on tantra shastra called      "Tantric Painting”

 
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Natural colours
These painters being farmers, rely on
the kindness of nature for colours. It provides them with a wonderful range of natural hues derived from clay, bark, flowers and berries.