Originally, Madhubani Paintings were executed on freshly plastered mud walls, on religious occasions or weddings. Each painting was a prayer and an accompaniment to meditation. Well executed paintings were believed to be inhabited by the deities depicted in them. The colors used in these paintings were made from Natural Dyes. Today, Madhubani Paintings are made on silk, Handmade paper, cloth, canvas etc for commercial purposes. The use of chemical dyes and paints have resulted in brighter multicolored paintings.
Madhubani art came to the notice of the rest of the country in the 1960s. Bihar had been hit by a terrible drought and the government decided to promote Madhubani Paintings to create an alternative non agricultural source of earning. The All-India Handicrafts Board encouraged the artists of Madhubani to paint on Handmade paper instead of on walls. Since then, painting has become a primary source of income for scores of families.
 The Madhubani Artists
Madhubani paintings are mostly made by Hindu village women who traditionally passed on this skill from mother to daughter.
There is a caste hierarchy involved in the making of Madhubani paintings. The Brahmins, people of the highest caste, can depict images of Gods and Goddesses and use all kinds of bright colours such as red, yellow, blue and lemon. The second in the hierarchy are the Kayasthas, who are also allowed to paint religious themes and motifs, but may use only red and black colors. The lowest caste, called the Dusadhs, are not permitted to make religious paintings. Their style of painting called the Godhna or Tattoo art usually depicts flora and fauna in repetitive motifs.
Even today, most of the Madhubani artists' work remains anonymous. Few women like to mark their paintings with their names, and are quite reluctant to consider themselves individual producers of "works of art".
 Motifs in Madhubani Paintings
The sources of folk art of Madhubani lie on the dim areas of silence, of the approximation to the heightened moments of creation itself...
(Mulk Raj Anand, famous Indian author)
Madhubani paintings usually revolve around mythological themes (Hindu deities such as Krishna, Rama, Siva, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Sun, Moon and Tulasi) and socio-cultural themes (court scenes, wedding scenes, social happenings). The subjects most commonly depicted include sun, moon, birds, fish, and bidh-bidhata (a male and a female bird facing each other), patia (mat woven from mothi), nag-nagin (entwined male and female cobras), pan ka ghar (leaf house) and naina jogin (Goddess with magical powers). Flowers, birds, animals and geometrical designs are interspersed throughout the painting.
One trait that diffrentiates Madhubani Paintings from Warli Paintings and other forms of Indian folk art is that they have no empty spaces – the artist covers every inch of his canvas with motifs. Like Warli Paintings, Madhubani paintings also they look two-dimensional or flat.
Traditionally Madhubani paintings were always made with Natural Dyes. Black was obtained by mixing soot with cow dung; yellow from turmeric or pollen or lime and the milk of banyan leaves; blue from indigo; red from the kusam flower juice or red sandalwood; green from the leaves of the wood apple tree; white from rice powder; orange from palasha flowers.
 Madhubani Paintings Today
Traditionally, Madhubani Paintings were a women’s preserve. However, in recent years, many men have also taken to making them as they have come to represent a major non-agricultural source of income, .
There have been many innovations in Madhubani paintings, especially in terms of what they are painted on. Earlier they were painted on walls, but today, artists paint on Handmade Paper, silk, saris, stoles and pottery.
The production and initial marketing of Madhubani Paintings has been regulated by regional craft guilds, the state government of Bihar, and the Government of India. The continuing market in this art throughout the world is a tribute to the resourcefulness of the women of Mithila who have successfully transferred their techniques of Bhitti chitra or wall-painting to the medium of paper, and have resisted the temptation to adapt their traditional designs too freely in pursuit of modern customer preferences
To buy Madhubani paintings online, visit Rare Indian Art To know about a Madhubani artist and view paintings online visit Ashok Jha
- Rare Indian Art
- Mithila Folk Paintings