About Mithila Painting

Mithila Painting:
    A Brief History

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Women in the Mithila region of Bihar in north India have painted colorful auspicious images on the interior walls of their homes on the occasion of domestic rituals since at least the 14th century. This ancient tradition, especially elaborated for marriages, continues today. However in 1968 in the midst of a severe drought, a few women began to paint on paper for sale, as a new source of family income. At first they simply transferred onto paper the traditional images - gods and goddesses and symbolic icons - from the wall paintings.

Soon many other women followed, and even a few men. Over the next 30 years, while retaining the wall paintings' distinctive styles and conventions, they began painting many new subjects; episodes from the Ramayana, local epics and tales, ritual activities, village life, even autobiographical paintings. And since 2000, they began painting local, national, and international events: floods, terrorism, global warming, and most recently, feminist issues such as patriarchy, dowry, bride burning, female infanticide, differential medical care and education for girls and boys, etc.

MITHILA PAINTING: THE EVOLUTION OF AN ART FORM provides a glimpse into the extraordinary vitality of this ancient art form. While retaining its distinctive aesthetics, and withstanding the pressures of the increasingly global art world, painters from all across the caste spectrum are producing stunning works of art on traditional and contemporary subjects. In the process they are also expressing and contributing to women's empowerment and social transformation in rural India.