Arts and Craft
The most well known and widespread part of heritage of mithila is its art form.The world famous mithila painting ,and Picasso of mithila painting is entitled to none other then the women folk of mithila itself.They are trained from their childhood in this art from and while they grow old ,they became expert in this art . Wall painting(Bhitta- chitra) and floor painting(airpana)are its two main forms.Now a days, it’s mostly done on paper with varied colours and fine artwork but it can be seen while various rituals of many holy occasions. Wall painting can be seen while marriage of any girl, in her kohbar(कोहबर) and floor painting or airpana(अरिपन) is done on almost every holy occasion and is an indispensable part of culture of mithila.
But the craft of mithila is also worth to be praised and it does not lag behind the art in any aspect .But the thing is, it got limited to this region only and does not get much exposure as like the art of mithila. People of mithila specially those lying on the periphery of the society are very much well trained in the various craft work and can amaze anyone through their spectacular skills and craft work. Some of the well known crafts of mithila are bamboo craft work,which include making of various baskets of different sizes and are known with various names like
koniya(कोनिया),soopa(सूपा) and chitta(छिट्टा).A special type of fan is also made out of bark of bamboo known as bena(बेना).Another one is sikki work(sikki is a special type of grass grown mainly in swampy and marshy areas with abundance of rainfall and water,its most commonly known as khar/खड़). Various small and beautiful items are made through this sikki,for eg; pauti(पौती) and mauni(मौनी). Some other crafts include terracotta artwork with some art work over it(most of which can be seen while various festivals like salhesh pooja,chhath pooja and sama -chakeva).The people of mithila have also reached at par in the handloom works. The famous silk work of Bhagalpur and madhubani khadi some examples of it.But due to lack of resources and capital these industries are facing a severe loss and are at the vicinity of getting closed.Closing up of many such small factories leads to a huge out migration from this region and also the talent of various skilled craft-persons are not getting utilised in a proper way. This situation is endangering the craft skills of these craft persons.
Preservation of such precious skill of art and craft ,is the need of the hour and we here at mithila heritage through this section of our art and craft introduce you with each and every aspect of this precious heritage of Mithila .
The most known part of Mithila's Heritage is its painting which is known worldwide as a Mithila Painting or Madhubani painting. As the name suggests this painting is mainly done in the region of Mithila specially in the villages of Madhubani,Darbhanga,Saharsha and Purnea .The outside world has came to know about this painting from the village of Ranti and Jitwarpur which is in district of Madhubani and hence these murals,came to be popularly known as Madhubani Painting.But the more appropriate name would be Mithila Painting which was suggested by W.G.Archer,who first drew attention to the mural painting to the Brahman and kayastha village communities of Mithila.
For many years this paintings were unkown to the world ,but it was in the year 1967-68 when this art form came into light. During this period the land was hard-hitted by drastic famine, and so the whole region came into grip of this terrible calamity. Rampant poverty of the region even worsened the condition , thousands of people starve for food and left with no other option to survive on.Among all these a lady ,embuded with a zeal to help the famished villagers,from the west came to the villages of Madhubani.Glooming all around,suddenly she was struck by the bright figures on the mud walls of hutments. She came to knew about the artists through people around and asked that lady to reproduce it on a peice of paper.And after the famine was over this art form is in front of the whole world with its catchy and vivid colours which attracted the veiwers eyes and marked its print over them.
The Madhubani Painting was reborn in 1967-68A.D., and reached new heights through the unrelenting efforts of the late Mr.L.N.Mishra,the then Foreign minister ,and through an active co-opertaion of noted artists of Bihar like Upendra Maharathi and Bhaskar Kulkarni.An intresting collection of some samples of Mithilas domestic arts may be seen in Chandradhari museum ,Darbhanga. Other well known artists are Maha Savitri Devi of Ranti village,Smt.Sita Devi of village Jitwarpur,Smt. Bua Devi Jha and Smt. Jagdamba devi.
The artists of these painting are not any particular men or women with a wide knowledge of arts and painting but are simple housewives who do not go to any school to learn the art of painting.Every girl learn this art from her near and dear ones and this tradition is passes on from mother to daughter through generations.No models are kept ,no specimen are preserved ;it is all natural.With the coming of the next generation of artists,the painting get something new ,with the result,the paintings are always fresh and virile with diffrent motifs and themes of that period.
Madhubani painting have no past,like the one we have in other schools of art,but only the present which provides sufficient clues for the assessment of artistic merits.No one can say when this Bhitta-citra(wall painting)actually began.But the symbolic representation to the design is very much similar to Harappan potteries and motifs on punch marked coins.The story goes that, It is said,when lakshman went to forest with Rama and sita ,his consort Urmila painted his image on wall and worshipped it daily. From these stories and mention of this art in ancient literature of Mithila,it can se safely inferred that this is a very very ancient art.
If we look into its socio-economic background ,we will get monopoly of women artists of mithila and there is perhaps no other country in the world where folk painting is mastered by women folk only.Madhubani in this respect is unique exception and this a very important fact and should be kept in mind while evaluating this art.
Its well known that in most of the part of India there is a patriarchal form of society and so this region also have strong hold over paternal lineage. While the pandits of this land were widely respected for their learning and scholarship,the ladies of the house were known for the beauty and fine asthetic taste.But they are widely confined to the four walls of their house and had no role to pay in outward activities.And so they created their own world through creativity and fantastic colours.This world to fantasy and colour move through their ideas and fingers-tips and could be possible only through Mithila women ,and by no one eles.These born artists have no set principles and instructions from book to follow:their own ideas and imagination plays a vital role in creating a particular art of object and belong to no any art school but creates a school of their own. With every generation, a new school is born,though the style remains the same.
Besides satisfying the urge of the artists ,this art work also have its own practical utility,which is obvious on any ocassion of diffrent social and religious festivities-such as birth if child, various sanskaar and rituals connected with different pujas and seasons.Being necessarily an integral part of family rituals,the womenfolk master this art theough inheritance and domestic traditions.
Like any other painting Mithila painting is also,largely an anonymous art But Mitihila holds a special credit for producing many Chitralekhas (first Indian painter,who was also an women)who have bought underlying fame and glory to the land of their birth through their immortal artistic creations.
Reference-Madhubani Painting by Upendra Thakur.
As we have already discussed in brief about the rich cultural heritage of Mithila, let us examine it in some greater depth, so that we can get a better clarification about each aspect of it. In the course of learning about various art and crafts of Mithila, here we are going to be familiar with the most prominent art of floor-drawing which is called by the name of 'Aripana'
It has a long drawn history and has been handed down from generations. Even today, it is very difficult to find a single house in Mithilanchal where ceremonies are held without Aripana. The ladies who are well trained in this work, enjoy a special status among women and get the tag of Aripana Denihar (lady who does the drawing). During special occasions, these ladies are the flavour of the month, even a ceremony can be delayed if Aripana Denihaar does not come.
If we look upon the etymology of this word, we will find that, it has a sanskrit origin and is derived from the word 'Alimpana' which means the art of drawing Ali(embankment or wall). It is a form of Varta Mandala ( a sub-classification of Mandalas) and is known by different names at different places (like Alpana in Bengal, Kolam in Tamil-Nadu and so on) with some variations in designs. The early manifestation of these diagrams (Mandalas) and their evolution can be traced in some ancient epics and in early rock paintings of India. Many of these drawings have some religious background but the main purpose behind these is yet to be known. There are certain beliefs that, it was drawn to make cultivated land fertile and fruitful by magical performances. Primitive women drew this for their personal benefits and subsistence, and not merely for artistic decoration.
These diagrams are referred to as writing, and not as drawing or painting. Aripana symbolises the prevalence of the Shakti cult in Mithila of which we have numerous references in various Puranas and in Harsacarita as well. Most of these Aripana are closely associated with the Tantric cult.
As noted above, the Aripana or line-drawings are formed on the ground on the eve of certain rituals or ceremonies such as Puja, Vrata, and Sanskara etc. On every occasion, these drawings are made fresh and anew in the courtyard,door-front, and other places. It is one of the sixty-four arts described in Classical literature.
In drawing Aripanas, brushes aren't used, the drawing is usually made with the help of nimble fingers. The material primarily used is the thin paste of powdered rice, which is called 'Pithara'in Maithili. Besides the natural white colour of the paste, sometimes turmeric and Sindura is mixed into the paste to give it a yellow and red effect respectively. The floor where the drawing or writing is to be made is plastered partially with the cow dung to maintain its sanctity.
The subject matter of these drawings usually falls under the five given categories
-Images of human beings, birds, and animals especially fish, peacock and snake along with different living and natural phenomena.
- Flower (lotus) leaves, trees and fruits.
-Tantric symbols, Yantras, Bindus etc.
-Gods and Goddesses.
-the other symbols like Swastika, mountain(Meru), rivers etc.
From the above discussion, we found that this floor -painting has an exceptional significance in the field of art and it is well appreciated by various art lovers and connoisseurs. The concept of line-drawing has a special charm and attraction in the world of art, and Aripana is one of the prominent and lively examples of any such artwork. Whenever a suitable occasion comes, these wonderful drawings bloom up on the floor inside the household and gradually fade up after the ceremony is over. Why this amazing artwork is so much neglected that it is still devoid from the eyes of many connoisseurs around the world? It is a matter of great concern and we shall be completely helpless if we do not take any initiative to highlight these beautiful artworks of our Mithila. If the lost Paintings of Ajanta and Kangra can be revived, why not the Aripana?
This floor-work is very unique in itself, holding an age-old tradition which is carried by very great and skilled women of Mithilanchal. They have inherited this tradition from generations in such a way that anyone can get mesmerized, looking at its fine work, variety of themes and structural brilliance, which can be found nowhere else.
Editted By : Anjali
Sujani is a kind of cotton quilt containing stylised embroidery and is remarkable for detailed and complex workmanship. Delicate embroidery is done on white quilts made of Cotton, woven into thick coverlet mostly white and sometimes coloured also.
The Sujani-making of Mithila is still undiscovered across the borders of Bihar. The quilts and covers prepared by women are similar to Kantha of Bengal. The technique of weaving Sujani is simple but time-consuming and requires much patience to complete the entire process. A number of old worn-out Sarees and Dhotis are stitched together with white(sometimes coloured)threads drawn from the borders of Sarees. After the quilting is done, the central portion is stitched with coloured threads from borders or old dyed materials, and further attractively worked with various motifs and designs. Sometimes, while preparing designs cross-stitches are also used. Often, the motifs inspired by the natural surroundings are carved on the Sujani i.e. the motifs depicting the kingdom of animals, birds, flowers and plants are drawn. Lively and vibrant pictures representing the antique regional traditions, often inspired by everyday life such as 'the palanquin-bearers carrying a bride or old woman on her way to the pilgrimage' are attractively drawn, enriched by the imagination of the artists.
A comparison between the Kantha of Bengal and the Sujani of Mithila would highlight the fact that the former is delicate and intricate but the latter is simpler yet bolder in conception. Without compromising with the richness of patterns, the surface is carefully worked out and a balanced pattern is created.
The Sujani serves the purpose of the quilt during the winter season and a wrap for the infants. Also customised Sujanis are used in order to cover musical instruments, precious commodities and old records.
Dismally, due to lack of time and availability of various alternatives, the artistic and beautiful Sujanis are losing their relevance. Hence, in order to rejuvenate the regional art of quilt making, we need to attract the market forces including both producers and consumers. This will certainly generate employment, another alternative for quilts in the market, along with a recognition tag to the regional makers of Sujani. Producers (the makers of the quilt, mostly women, confined to their homes) would lovingly grab this golden opportunity in order to earn a living and the consumers too would satisfy their utilities with another great alternative in the market.
Editted By : Anjali
Among numerous rich and fine artworks of Mithila, the Needle-craft (embroidery) also known as 'Kasida' holds a prominent position. It is widely practised by women in the houses of Mithilanchal. Needlework is an age-old art whose wide prevalence in Mithila has been attested by Vidyapati in his famous book, ' Kirtilata'.Unlike the Aripana, the Kasida embroidery is popular among various sects and communities, and not just a particular religion. Sadly, the recent works on different Indian embroideries leave the Mithila Kasida embroidery unmentioned.
The art of embroidery has been defined as 'the painting with a needle' and has a distinguished place in the hedonistic civilization of our country. Embroidery, like painting in Mithila, has been liberally a prerogative of women and thus believed to be a feminine craft. Like Aripana, it is created afresh every time, meanwhile, some patterns have to be fixed and can be repeated, for the reason of maintaining the standards of perfection.
The Kasida of Bihar and Mithilanchal closely resemble 'Kasuti' embroidery of Mysore in appearance, having a large variety of geometrical patterns which is quite abundant in folk figures and designs. It is mainly practised by the women of North- Bihar(Mithila) in order to embroider their regular as well as occasional garments for which the household linen is generally embellished. It is however not commercialized and still confined to the personal household use such as; blouses, caps for babies, Gerua or Takia(pillow-covers), bed-covers and Gautakia(bolsters). According to an old custom, prevalent in Mithila- the bride carries different varieties of embroidered clothes called Bhara(along with her other artworks) to her husband's house at the time of her 'Dwiragaman'. This pursuit of art is usually done in leisure, satisfying the womenfolk's inner urge for artistic expression.
In Kasida, there are many varieties that can be categorised on the basis of various stitching patterns, leading to the formation of different styles such as Gachua, Bharita(Bharata) and Taganua.
Gachua has many sub-varieties such as Jhigali, Jhikhu and Techu. This is a chain-stitch design(pattern), where the needle is pulled through the cloth. The blouse worn by village women is generally worked with chain-stitch.
The Bharita or Bharata work is the second variety, which is embroidered on the entire surface. the methodology of this work is complicated and tiresome. The work progress is slow, thus the art is acquired with great difficulty. This is similar to Bagh and Phulkari embroidery of Punjab (Bagh form of embroidery where the floral motifs cover the whole surface of bright coloured clothes).
The third variety is known as Taganua, which literally means counting threads. In this form, the village women first sketch designs on clothes with the help of a pencil and then fill them up by counting the stitches.
A study of different variations of Kasida reveals the real character of the embroidery work done in Mithila and elsewhere in Bihar. It is secular in form and decorative in nature, having a geometrical pattern of various shapes and sizes, which probably points towards its early existence during the evolution of embroidery. The Tulsi plant, Jhava plant, Banana plant, Groves, Lotus(Kamala) flower and Sarso flower are some of the prominent floral designs along with many faunal motives like elephant, peacock, fish and humans. Sometimes we come across the designs depicting the combined figure of the man and the beast, i.e., hybrid form(probably representing the Nar-Simha; the incarnation of Lord-Vishnu)and figure of dancing girls, Doli and Kahara and many more. We can also get figures of Gods and Goddesses in the form of Kasida embroidery. Henceforth, we have many Aripana designs woven as Kasida works of Mithilanchal. Several Maithili folk songs abound in reference to the embroidery art of Mithila. In some of them, women express their desire to wear embroidered clothes as their wedding outfits, along with 'Chunari', which their respective husbands to be would bring for them. There are hundreds of such amazing folk traditions in our Mithila. The only thing which is much needed is to revive our opulent culture and traditions and breathe a new life into them so that these colourful and aesthetically pleasing artworks of Mithila can flourish in the region and outside and can inspire millions.
Reference from Madhubani Painting by Upendra Thakur.
~ Yasha Sandilya
Editted By : Anjali