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Exploring the Deep Meanings of Madhubani Border Design

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Madhubani is rich in history and cultural significance. The best way to identify a Madhubani painting is by looking at the borders of an art piece. The Madhubani border design is well known for its patterns and symbolic motifs. The art form contains breathtaking representations of a holistic universe and deities, galactic bodies, flora, fauna, etc. But the best part about the artwork is that it includes symbols from different cultures and traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Tantric practices!

Aren’t you curious to know more about these exquisite paintings we are talking about? We for sure cannot wait to talk about Madhubani paintings!

What is the history behind Madhubani paintings?

The name ‘Madhubani’ has its roots in Sanskrit. Madhu means honey and bani means forest or woods. So, Madhubani can be translated as “Forest of Honey” or “Land of Sweetness”. It’s one the most beloved art forms, but did you know that its history traces back over 2500 years? Madhubani, or Mithila paintings, are traced back to the time of Lord Rama’s marriage to Sita. If Mithila sounds familiar then yes, it’s said to be the birthplace of Sita. It’s believed that people used Madhubani artwork to decorate their houses to celebrate the auspicious occasion. 

Lotus motif is frequently used to make madhubani border design.
Katchni style of Madhubani Painting. Image source: International Indian Folk Art Gallery

Oh, and the facts about Madhubani don’t stop here. The artwork is one of the living traditions of Mithila and has been practiced by the women of the region for centuries. The authenticity of Madhubani art shines from its heartfelt portrayal of society, morals, customs, and values in intriguing ways. Like many other traditional artworks, Mithila paintings used natural dyes and pigments with enriching geometric patterns. If you are curious about learning the artwork, be sure to check out books by Bharti Dayal, Manisha Jha, and many other artists! Of course, there’s also the option of participating in our Madhubani workshops as well to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Madhubani border designs didn’t start with the paper paintings like you see now. Originally, Madhubani was painted on the floor with crude rice, on walls where it was multicolored, and on movable objects such as clay models of pots, birds, elephants, fans, etc. Fascinating, isn’t it? Well, we have got a lot more to share about this gorgeous art form, so keep on reading!

What are the different styles of Mithila painting? 

Madhubani artwork is rich with different styles and sub-styles that bring out their separate characteristics and regional influences. Most of these styles work in sync with different motifs when an artist works on intricate Madhubani border designs. 

Following are some of the most popular styles of Madhubani paintings:

Katchni style: This style of Madhubani painting is characterized by intricate cross-hatching patterns and the motifs are filled with fine parallel lines, creating a textured effect. It usually requires precise detailing and delicate artwork. 

Godna style: The Godna style utilizes dotted patterns and uses dots of various sizes and arrangements to create intricate designs. It’s also reminiscent of the technique used in tattooing, known as ‘Godna’ in the local language. 

Kohbar style: This Mithila painting style originated from the practice of decorating the walls of newlywed couples’ chambers. It depicts scenes from mythological narratives, wedding rituals, and fertility symbols, marked by its narrative storytelling. 

Tantrik style: The Tantrik style is influenced by the Tantrik rituals and practices and features complex geometric patterns, mystical symbols, and representations of deities. It’s known for its spiritual and esoteric themes. 

Bharni style: Bharni is one of the oldest styles of Madhubani painting frames, involving filling the outlines of the figures with vibrant colors. The color palette consists of bright bold colors and the motifs are extremely detailed. 

If you have been following Madhubani paintings, we are sure you would recognize one or the other descriptions mentioned above. How wonderful it is, isn’t it? 

What are the different types of Madhubani borders?

Before talking about Madhubani borders, we want to discuss the wide range of motifs that are present in the artwork. These motifs have their own symbolic significance and cultural relevance, representing various aspects of nature, daily life, mythology, and folklore. 

Some of the most visible and known motifs are as follows:

  • Peacock: Peacock motifs are one of the most common motifs in Madhubani border designs. It symbolizes beauty, grace, and immortality and enhances the painting by adding a majestic and regal touch to the paintings. 
  • Birds: Bird motifs are commonly depicted in the artwork including parrots, peacocks, sparrows, etc. They symbolize freedom, happiness, and harmony of nature and the playfulness and intricate detailing of the feathers bring liveliness to the artwork. 
  • Fish: Fish motifs represent fertility, abundance, and good fortune. The fish is usually depicted in a pair, swimming in a rhythmic pattern, and are believed to bring prosperity and blessings. Due to the auspicious meaning behind these motifs, they are prevalent in Madhubani painting frames. 
  • Lotus: The Lotus flower is believed to hold great spiritual and cultural significance and stands for purity, divine beauty, and enlightenment. 
  • Sun and Moon: These celestial symbols are one of the most beautiful representations in any painting. The sun represents energy, vitality, and life force, while the moon signifies calmness, serenity, and feminine energy. 

The intricacies of Madhubani don’t only line in the detailing that goes into making these motifs, but also how they are embodied in the art piece as well. Madhubani’s folk art border designs are a treat to one’s eye because it merges the significance of the motifs mentioned above with the cultural distinctions that the artwork seeks to represent. 

Madhubani is incomplete without its intricate borders that enrich the overall composition. Each border encompasses different techniques using unique patterns and characteristics. Some of the border styles are: 

1. Geometric borders

Geometric design for madhubani borders.
Geometric border design by Egle Singh. Source:

Geometric borders, inspired by Tantrik styles, are commonly seen in Madhubani art. They feature arrangements of lines, squares, triangles, circles, and dots, creating a symmetrical and visually appealing design. 

2. Nature-based borders

Lotus is a common motif in madhuabni border designs.
Lotus and triangles border design by Egle Singh. Source:

Nature-based uses various elements from nature including motifs such as flowers, leaves, vines, and trees. The organic shape and forms usually add a touch of natural beauty and harmony to the Madhubani borders. 

3. Fish and Peacock borders

peacock feathers is used in to make the borders of a madhubani painting.
Peacock feather border design by Egle Singh. Source:

Bingo if you recall this title from the motifs mentioned above! Fish borders, often in pairs, adorn the borders in a repetitive pattern. On the other hand, peacock borders add a touch of royalty to the whole artwork. 

4. Serpent borders

Wavy border design. Another common border style.
Wavy border design by Egle Singh. Source:

Snakes often make their way in Madhubani painting frames and they are also incorporated into the borders. Snakes hold significant meaning in mythology and represent fertility, protection, and transformation. 

5. Kundan borders

Fish eye or circles used as a border design motif.
Fish eye/ circular border design by Egle Singh. Source:

Last, but not least, Kundan refers to small circular, tear-shaped dots that are added to the borders in a repetitive pattern. They add a sense of texture, radiance, and energy to the artwork. 

Oh, we hope this wasn’t an information overload! But, Madhubani paintings are so interesting, it’s usually hard for us to stop talking about them. One of the best characteristics of this style is how it isn’t very difficult to adapt it in different forms for present uses. Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

How are Madhubani border designs and paintings adapted in the present day?

Mithila paintings gained international recognition in 2016 when they were granted the status of ‘Geographical Indication’ by the Government of India. But its incorporation in everyday items started in the 1960s when the All India Handicrafts Board initiated a program to promote the art form and encourage women to create paintings on paper. 

The captivating Madhubani border designs have found their way into various creative professions, including fashion, stationery, and home decor. Some of how Madhubani painting borders have been adapted are given below:

  • Home decor and furnishings – Madhubani borders have been embraced to create decorative items such as wall hangings, tapestries, bedspreads, cushions, curtains, and tablecloths. The borders add an artistic touch to living spaces. 
  • Fashion and Textiles – Many traditional and contemporary clothing designs incorporate the use of Madhubani painting frames. This includes sarees, dupattas, and kurtis, including scarves, tote bags, footwear, etc. It’s one of the best representations of the synchronization of traditional art and modern fashion. 
Madhubani border design has been adapted to textiles.
Leaves and triangles used to make a double border. Image source: Sundari Silks
  • Stationary and paper goods – Many notebooks, journals, bookmarks, and greeting cards feature the intricacies of the Madhubani art style. They add a unique and cultural flair to everyday writing and gift essentials! 
  • Ceramic and Pottery: Madhubani is also adapted to many ceramic items such as plates, bowls, cups, and vases. They are carefully hand-painted onto these surfaces, creating a stunning piece of functional art. 

Seeing how traditional art forms are kept alive never fails to make us smile, especially when they are so widely recognized and appreciated by people. By adapting Madhubani border designs onto everyday articles, we can make more space for the recognition of this delightful artwork!


Madhubani painting’s folk art border design is no hit-and-miss with people as no one fails to recognize the sharp detailing and beauty of this art piece. The borders of Madhubani paintings not only contain decorative elements but also carry deep symbolic meaning which enhances the overall visual appeal and storytelling of the artwork. 

The Madhubani painting border designs are detailed and vibrant, and showcase the artistic skills and cultural richness of the Madhubani artwork. They frame the central composition and add structure, balance, and completeness to the paintings. 

Hence, as a creative professional if you are thinking about learning Madhubani painting frames, don’t wait up! There are a lot of opportunities out there in the professional world for the adaptation of this traditional artwork into a modern-day routine!

Check out our online Mastero course on Madhubani painting taught by renowned Padmashree awardee Dulari Devi.

Download the Rooftop App from GooglePlay or AppStore and enroll in the Madhubani course now!

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