The Graceful Madhubani

Unique weaves of the East – IV


How often have we stopped by and appreciated something beautiful? It does not have to be a person, it can be anything. It can be nature, it can be a car, it can be a voice or an art. We have become so busy with our own lives that there is no time to stop by and say “hey, now that’s gorgeous!”

I agree, even I don’t. But there are times I have. I have been in awe of so many things. A visit to Goa, makes me fall in love with the sunset. It also makes me realize that I have so such few sunsets in my life! Now, that is sad. We all should slow down a little. Not everyday, But once in a while, it is nice to just relax and appreciate the beautiful things around us.

This idea struck me, when the great team at Vivarang ( to me about doing a blog on Madhubani. I was aware of this art, but did not know how beautiful it can be. So i went around seeing various Madhubani paintings and was awestruck. It blew my mind. How is it possible to create something so marvellous with just hands, twigs pen nibs and matchsticks?


After reading up on the art, I wondered how many of us even know that this exists? That made me sit up and blog about the same.

A little background:

This art form origins from the Mithila region, Nepal and in Indian it is Bihar. Another name for Madhubani paintings is Mithila art or Mithila paintings. As mentioned earlier, this art is done by hands, twigs pen nibs and matchsticks with natural colours and dyes. It is mostly women in the state of Bihar who work on the Madhubani art. These designs have always been an inspiration for various fabrics.

There have been stories of this art form existing since the time of Ramayana. It is believed that Lord Janak, father of Sita had called artists to capture the wedding of Lord Ram and Sita in the form of Madhubani painting. Therefore, the origin of the art is since that period.

The identity of a Madhubani painting, lies in it’s dramatic depiction of life stories. This rich craft essentially depicts stories of folk-lore, weddings, marriages and symbols of fertility and prosperity with dominance of motifs like fish, parrot, elephant, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo tree, lotus, etc. Madhubani paintings are made from the powdered rice paste, using fingers, nib-pens, brushes, match sticks and twigs, dyes obtained from trees, fruits, flowers and spices are used to add colors. This is done to maintain the originality and meticulousness of the art.


Did you know?

The women of Mithila spend dedicated hours every day to create these painstaking designs using two styles of coloring: Bharni and Kachni. The latter is used to outline the designs with fine lines while the Bharni process is used to fill in colors.

The women from this region have been practicing folk arts since the 1800’s. The mothers have been passing their knowledge and teachings to their daughters, teaching them the artistic patterns and dyes little known to the outside world.


Art and style:

There are three basic styles in the art of Madubani which reflects the caste system.

  1. Brahmin – The Brahmins are regarded as the highest among the three castes.  Beautful vibrant colors and religious motifs of various gods holds the essence of their paintings. Since they had easy access to sacred texts, it helped them portray the mythological and religious motifs with ease.
  2.  Kayasthas– In the hierarchy of caste, they were second to the Brahmins. Their style of painting symbolized fertility. The style has been practiced since the Aryan invaders era and included motifs symbolizing procreation. Some common motifs used by them are lotus plant, sacred symbols, fish, tortoises, parrots and birds.
  3. Dusadhs – Since they were lowest in the caste system, they were banned to showcase any religious motifs in their art form!  Their style of painting is also known as Tattoo or Godhana painting. Common motifs of flora and fauna can be seen in their art. With time as the social acceptance widened, they have now started painting motifs of gods. Interestingly, their use of vibrant colors is quite similar to the Brahmin style of painting.


Earlier, Madhubani art was used only to decorate and add colors to homes. With modernization and growing love for Indian art forms, it is now even done on clothing, hand made papier-mâché products and wall paintings. It was always the women who practised this art form, but with changing times, men have started putting in their artistic touch to this art.

In modern times, fashion gurus are going back to the rich textile heritage of this art and reviving this art by designing Madhubani sarees, dupattas and Indo-western dresses. So many fashion weeks have witnessed designers showcase color-filled collection of Madhubani designs. From sarees, salwar kameez, long skirts and palazzo pants are beautifully designed in Madhubani art.


Collaboration with Vivarang:

Through my earlier post, you must have known what a powerhouse of talent, team Vivarang is. They have not only maintained various graceful weaves/art-forms/fabrics of India, but have successfully promoted the same. We worked on 5 products of Madhubani – A saree, dupatta, stole, tie and an unstitched kurta with Madhubani painting on the same.


The saree is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen in my life! The gorgeous detailing just makes it the most magical thing I have ever touched or seen. It reflects the effort of all the artisans and the beauty of the art so effectively. This painting is done on silk.


The dupatta, off-white with detailed Madhubani painting, makes it a must have. If you just have a Madhubani dupatta thrown over your kurta, there is nothing more needed for the day. Classy, elegant yet simple, defines this piece.


I have never seen so much detailing on a stole, as I have seen the ones on that of a Madhubani. The artisans at Vivarang have put their heart and soul to maintain this tradition piece of art. Every design is different from the other and that makes it a masterpiece.


The unstitched kurta has detailed Madhubani painting done on cotton fabric. This summer, try one of these. It is comfort with so much style. The beautiful birds and floral motif brightens up the entire piece. Style it the way you want it. Make a kurta or a dress and you have arrived.



Even men can have their fair share of Madhubani painting. Vivarang has a fabulous collection of Madhubani ties in geometric designs as well as floral and bird motifs.


Let us all try and restore the lost art forms of India. There is so much to dig into. There is so much to innovate. Every design, fabric, weave has a story to tell. And we should all know that story 🙂


Saree, Dupatta, Tie, Stole, Unstitched Kurta by – Vivarang


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