Mithila Painting

Mithila or Madhubani painting is a style of folk art form practiced by millions of women in the Mithila region of Bihar, India since ancient times. On the foot of Himalayas, heritage of Mithila boasts of being the land of Janak, Sita, Budh, Mahavira and strong deep rooted long lineage. 

The origins of these paintings are not known, since they were traditionally drawn on walls and floors, and then redrawn over time, when they faded. They are still living because they are an integral part of any Mithila family function, and have been passed diligently through generations from moms to daughters of Mithila.

When there was little focus on education of girls in India, Mithila paintings probably also served as an informal medium of education. Some Aripans borrow heavily from science with their depictions of Calendar etc. Holding a brush is probably the precursor of holding a pen or pencil.

Traditionally, Madhubani paintings are drawn on floors or on walls, with the help of brush or pen made of bamboo. In some of the paintings even fingers were used as a drawing instrument. With the growth of available media, even modern colouring instruments are now being used on a variety of cloths, paper and canvas.

With themes ranging from nature, spirituality, social events and science, these are highly complex intricate paintings having elaborate structure involving different types of geometrical figures and curves. They also have very rich colour patterns, with traditional painting typically utilising natural colours made of plants. The paintings have to be understood in conjunction of folk stories, folk songs and other folk traditions linked to the occasion. There are paintings for each occasion in a man’s life such as birth, upnayan (sacred thread ceremony), rituals during marriage, and even Death(Aripans, the floor paintings are made in the prayer rituals after death too) and for various festivals such as Makar Sankranti, Kali Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Diwali, Bhai Dooj and others. These paintings are also Symbolic paintings, with widespread use of abstraction through symbols and patterns. Different motifs used in the paintings are quite rich in their meaning. The paintings draw inspiration from the folk stories, folk songs and other folk traditions linked to the occasion.

Mithila Paintings dwell on heavy abstraction of thoughts by use of symbolism, and were probably the first modernist ideas in art, that went beyond What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. Extensive use of natural symbols such as sun, moon, navagraha, bamboo, lotus, fish, peacock and serpent; and their interaction with each other in different contexts leave much to interpretation. The pinnacle of symbolism is the conjoined image of Shiva and Parvati in Ardhanarishwar, although it can't be ascertained if this concept originated in Mithila Paintings.

Each artist of Mithila Painting has her or his own style, and the form of art lets its practicipants to explore the new. Probably, this is the reason why Mithila Paintings were done traditionally, only as a transient feature and then redrawn, something on which people leave layers and layers of their own imprints.

Distinguishable Features

  • Facial Characteristics are quite Sharp and represented in a 2D way
  • Eyes are quite large and Symmetry is important in paintings
  • Tantrik Symbolic Representation is used extensively


  • From 60’s the paintings were commercialised in the form of paintings on  Paper, Textiles, Dresses, Shoes & Bags, Carpets, etc.
  • Govt promoted it by putting up special paintings on Trains, Offices, Hotels, Stamps
  • Special fairs were organised inside the country and abroad
  • Commercialisation has also led to Large Scale Creation of jobs to painters and promoters, and  Diversification of products.

The Digital Way

In order to reach larger base, Madhubani Painting have also taken the digital route. On this site you will witness a variety of paintings created digitally.