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Indian Folk Art of Madhubani Painting

Radhika's hobbies include making art & crafts in which she is highly fond of doing fabric painting.

India is a country of diverse religions and this diversity can be found in its culture too. Different cultural art forms make up its rich heritage. Of these, Indian paintings contribute a major part and their style and designs vary depending upon the origin of their region and culture. Murals and miniatures are the two broad classifications of Indian paintings. Eastern India painting, Western India painting, Deccan School of painting, Mughal painting, Rajput painting, Mysore painting, Tanjore painting, Pattachitra, Bengal School of Painting, Madhubani painting and modern Indian painting are the various forms of Indian paintings that have their own unique style and tradition.


Madhubani is a small village in Mithila situated in the state of Bihar. Mithila is said to be the birth place of Sita, wife of Lord Sriram. It is believed that King Janaka, father of Sita, asked the women of Mithila to decorate their homes with paintings on the auspicious occasion of the marriage of his daughter Sita with Lord Ram. This gave rise to Madhubani paintings in the form of murals in the mud walls and floors of each and every home of the villages situated in Mithila. Districts of Champaran, Saharsa, Vaishali, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur all fall in the land of Mithila and Madhubani is the central place where these paintings can be seen in profuse than any other place.

Madhubani painting

A Madhubani classic - a goddess

A Madhubani classic - a goddess

Amongst the many folk arts of India, Madhubani painting is a fascinating and recently discovered art tradition of the women folk. This is a vibrant and rich art form of rendering the humble mud walls and courtyards with bold and colorful images. It has been practiced over centuries solely by the women folk and passed down to daughters and granddaughters from great grandmothers for maintaining their cultural expression. With topics almost universal to folk art, the women of Mithila have pursued painting Madhubani art form on their walls with patterns of striking visual appeal.

The subjects are primarily ritual, mythical, images of gods and goddesses, symbols from nature related to fertility, abundance, auspicious occasions, superstitions, warding off of evil forces and others seen in folk and tribal art forms all over the world. Madhubani art portrays a pictorial narration of mythological and religious events, celebration of festivals and detailing of celestial bodies-sun and moon in a traditional amazing format.

Madhubani wall paintings in Bihar

Community tradition

Like most folk art traditions, Madhubani painting is also a community activity requiring lots of patience. This long process involves extraction of pigments from natural sources and preparing ground surfaces in a traditional manner. The beauty of Madhubani lies in a collective effort of communal bonding. It is an expression of rejoice in the celebrations of festivals, nuptials, procreation, change of seasons and other preoccupations of the women folk.

Madhubani paintings play an important role in wedding ceremonies held in nuptial chamber called regionally as ‘Kohbar’. The entire women folk draw painted images of Goddesses in this Kohbar who bless the couple during the religious ceremonies with a happy long married life. This exclusive monopoly of Madhubani paintings by girls start at a very early age and finally culminates in the nuptial room, which acquires great sanctity in the social life of Mithila.

The nuptial room is filled with paintings having a central theme. Most of them focus on love and fertility, though some may have different approach. The panel of paintings can commence with the story of Sita’s marriage or that of Radha-Krishna episode.

Madhubani wall painting of a woman dancing. A bunch of flowers and peacock are painted as the accompanying themes.

Madhubani wall painting of a woman dancing. A bunch of flowers and peacock are painted as the accompanying themes.


A major drought that occurred in 1966-68 shook Madhubani and its adjoining parts and the place fell into ecological and economical crisis. The All-India Handicrafts Board encouraged the women artists to produce their work on paper for commercial sale thereby creating a new source of income for them. This gave this art form wide exposure and became popularized all over the world.

Gradually, Madhubani paintings made use of other mediums and motifs like greeting cards, dress materials, sun mica, pottery, wooden box etc. Today’s artists paint without any preliminary sketching. Though natural colours and twigs are being replaced by artificial paints and brushes, the subject of Madhubani paintings remain untouched.

Madhubani painting in a dress material

Madhubani painting in a dress material

A pot painted in Madhubani

A pot painted in Madhubani

Ornament box decorated with Madhubani painting

Ornament box decorated with Madhubani painting

The abstract painting of a cow surrounded by a tree.

The abstract painting of a cow surrounded by a tree.

Attributes characterizing almost all Madhubani paintings

  • Use of bold, natural and artificial colors.
  • A double line border with simple geometric designs or with ornate floral patterns in it.
  • Symbols, lines and patterns supporting the main theme filling the entire vacant space. No empty space can be spotted.
  • Abstract like figures of deities or human.
  • The faces of the figures have large bulging eyes and a jolting nose emerging out the forehead.
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Though there were no class artists and much difference in subjects practiced, Madhubani paintings were classified into three types depending upon the caste to which artists belong; Kayastha tradition, Brahmin tradition and The Tattoo Tradition called Goidana.

Madhubani painting for kids

Several templates of Madhubani paintings are available now-a-days in the market. Kids can paint them or do stuffing with attractive materials on them. A Sandsational Madhubani Kit is the professional painting kit meant for promoting our heritage art. Using coloured sand and white adhesive, the templates are decorated by gluing and tapping off the excess sand from the paper.

Sandsational Madhubani art

A Madhubani template decorated by colored sand

A Madhubani template decorated by colored sand

Here I’ve created a Madhubani art for kidsthat I think would be interesting and useful for them. This art upon completion can be used as a wall hanging.

Peacock craft in Madhubani

Madhubani wall hanging art for kids

Madhubani wall hanging art for kids

Decorative materials

Decorative materials

The main theme of this template is a peacock, the symbol of eternity. Flowers and leaves surround it filling the gap following the tradition of Madhubani art. The decorative materials used include golden threads, pearls, stones, leaves (artificial), embroidery woolen threads, crepe balls and lace.

  1. Draw a peacock using linear shapes and should not look real.
  2. Surround the peacock with pictures of several flowers and leaflets.
  3. Mark the outline using a black sketch pen.
  4. Apply white adhesive over the leaves with a brush as shown in the picture.
  5. Glue small leaves over it.
  6. Next, glue bigger leaves to the stem of the adjacent flower.
  7. Now, glue the green thread over the stem of all leaflets.
  8. Glue red color thread through the outline of the petals of all flowers.
  9. Embellish the peacock with red color thread for the beak and blue color thread for the crest, neck and body.
  10. Finally, finish decorating its body using red and blue colored pearls and outline the long tail with golden lace. Blue color stones are used for decorating its feathers. The receptacles of the flowers also are decorated with red and purple stones.

Even if Industrialization and modernization have hidden the growth of Madhubani paintings, they’re given wide exposure as they form the rich cultural heritage of India. These heritage style paintings are contemporary, modern art paintings also can be obtained from it. Madhubani painting can be time-consuming and backbreaking, but the visual treat it provides is beyond words or inexplicable.

Bharti Dayal (National award winner) painting Madhubani in a paper

Please vote!

© 2013 Radhika Sreekanth


Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on August 09, 2017:

Thanks Chitrangada for visiting this hub of Madhubani art. I too appreciate all those who want to take this art form to higher reaches by widening its applications. Glad that you liked my peacock painting.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 09, 2017:

A very well written and illustrated article about Madhubani art!

I learnt something more about this beautiful folk art. All those who are making efforts to preserve and spread this art are worthy of appreciation.

All your pictures and videos are excellent. Your peacock painting is lovely.

Thanks for sharing this excellent article!

Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on May 14, 2015:

It's painful to hear that some countries don't entertain women to do art. But the wide accepted truth is that women are more concerned with art forms as they're homely.

poetryman6969 on May 12, 2015:

It's good to see an art form that has a lot of female representation. In some countries women don't seem to be encouraged to be artists.

Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on October 01, 2013:

Thanks Mike Robbers for that impressive comment.

Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on September 30, 2013:

Thank you Michele, I'm honored by your kind and humble words. I'm just a small writer among these wonderful, amazing writers world of Hubpages. Thanks for the votes too.

Mike Robbers from London on September 29, 2013:

Nice hub about a less known folk art. Great imagery and presentation and quite informative!

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on September 29, 2013:

Thank you so much for this hub. The pictures are so beautiful, it is amazing! And the writing as to how the art is done is also wonderful.

You are a wonderful writer.

Voted up.

Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on September 01, 2013:

Thanks thelyricwriter for your wonderful comment. Madhubani folk art is an age-old traditional art form of India. It's intricate designs are a pleasure to perceive. Thank you for the votes and share.

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on September 01, 2013:

Radhikasree, I enjoyed this very much:) Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful, and shared on FB. I haven't seen much of this art before, but it is very beautiful, creative, and unique. You did a great job on this, love all the information and traditions Radhikasree:) Well done my friend

Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on July 06, 2013:

Thanks Elias Zanetti for the visit and making such an engaging comment. Madhubani is an ancient art that got revived and became popular everywhere. Thanks for the votes and for the pin.

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on July 06, 2013:

Very interesting and well written hub. The artworks as well as the videos are most beautiful and useful. Thanks for sharing such an informative article on this Indian folklore art. Voted and pinned.

Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on July 06, 2013:

Hi Ruby,

But you're blessed with the talent to paint with words.......thanks for the positive feedback and pleased to hear that this hub is beautiful and informative.

Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on July 06, 2013:

Thanks thumbi7 for making such a great comment. I'm glad that you liked these paintings and to be frank, these are my preliminary attempts at Madhubani painting. Thank you!

Radhika Sreekanth (author) from Mumbai,India on July 05, 2013:

Hi ishwaryaa22,

Thank you for the visit and for the comment. Nice to hear that you learned about one of India's folk heritage arts. All the best for giving it a try to thanks for the votes and for the share.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 05, 2013:

The peacock is my favorite. I wish i had the talent to paint, only my sister Eva can do that. Your presentation is beautiful and informative. Thank you for sharing the history of folk-art...

JR Krishna from India on July 05, 2013:

Beautiful paintings and beautiful hub!

Very detailed article and I am amazed at your talent in painting

Good work!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on July 05, 2013:

An elaborately written hub with stunning photos and engaging videos! Here you educated me a lot about one of India's finest cultural paintings - Madhubani art. With your direct instructions and clearly mentioned characteristics, I would like to give this unique art a try. Way to go!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Beautiful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up, pinned & shared

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