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Etymology: The word ‘Madhubani’ is derived from the local language of Mithila. The word ‘Madhu’ means honey and ‘bani’ means forest.

Origin: While there are no written records or evidence to establish the origin of Madhubani paintings, it is believed that this art dates back to around the 7th or 8th century CE. 

Location: Madhubani originated in the Mithila region, a district of North Bihar, a place where art and crafts have reached their stage of excellence.

Relevance: Madhubani painting is an emblematic expression of day-to-day experiences and beliefs. As such, symbolism, simplicity, and beauty hold them together in a single school of traditional art. The most popular themes and designs are the worshipping of Hindu deities and episodes from popular mythologies. The art not only depicts the social structure but also the cultural identity of the land with its depictions of themes of religion, love and fertility.


Significance: Mithila, a region in the state of Bihar, northern India, has an important tradition of knowledge in the form of paintings. The paintings primarily depict religious themes. The central theme of all Madhubani paintings is love and fertility. Drawings of nature and mythology are adapted and visualised according to the style of each region, as well as the individual artist.

Culture and Societies: The women of the Mithila region have been practicing Madhubani art for centuries and today it is considered a living tradition of Mithila.

Religious significance: They are made in special rooms in the house, such as in the room for prayer, the ritual area, the bridal room, or the main walls of the village to welcome visitors, etc.

Understanding the Art

Style: Madhubani paintings were initially practised by different sects of people and hence the paintings were categorised into five different styles, such as Tantrik, Kohbar, Bharni, Godna, and Katchni.

Central motifs: The attributes characterising almost all Madhubani paintings are a double-line border with simple geometric designs or with ornate floral patterns on it. The most popular symbols are fish, peacocks and serpents.

new outlook

Madhubani painting enjoys international popularity, especially in countries like Japan, Germany, France and the USA.

The Master Craftsmen Association of Mithila, founded by an American in 1977 CE, helps the artists of Madhubani with the sale of their works through exhibitions.

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