The tradition of Madhubani painting originated from ‘Madhubani’, a tiny hamlet in North Bihar, and has been in existence for many centuries. You may ask what is a folk art from Bihar doing in Chennai? That was precisely what we thought and decided to investigate a little further.
This century old tradition practised by the women of Madhubani and the surrounding area of Mithila became known to the world thanks to a famine in the region, which prompted the All India Handicrafts Board to initiate steps to produce and market these paintings commercially. After that, there was no looking back and the paintings were much in demand. This boosted the local economy of the region. Following which, organisations like the National Folklore Support Centre took steps to promote this ancient folk art.
It was at one such workshop that Srinivasan of Artspot picked up ‘Madhubani’. “It was a one week workshop and we did three paintings, learning the art while doing it. After that I did a few on my own with whatever material was available locally and also picked up finer points from many books. They had also prescribed some books at the workshop, on the folk life of Bihar” says Srinivasan.
Thought to be very similar to our South Indian tradition, there are quite a few differences between the South Indian tradition of Tanjore painting and Madhubani paintings. While Tanjore painting is more iconic, Madhubani a folk art is less refined. Tanjore paintings are more near to real life than Madhubani painting.
“I started the classes on Madhubani painting very recently and I charge Rs 1,000/- for the course. The course is for 3 hours a day, spread over 6 days. The participants learn the art by doing a painting themselves during the course. Theory and practise go hand in hand,” explains Srinivasan about the course.The classes are usually in the afternoon; there are no batches though. All the participants are free to come and go as they please and are given individual attention.