Sometimes you see something so beautiful that it mesmerizes you for the rest of your life. You can close your eyes and the image is right in front of you, making you smile, without fail, every single time. This is how I feel about the first Madhubani painting I saw many, many years ago. Set in a beautiful frame, this painting was a wedding present from a mother to her daughter and was custom-made by women in the Mithila region of Bihar for the wedding. Precious indeed! This is how my love for this art form started. Much later, I met an artist called Gambhira Devi in Delhi who passionately told me about the paintings I bought from her and the significance of the symbols and style she had used.
Madhubani painting was traditionally created by women of certain communities in the Mithila region. It originated in Madhubhani village of Janakpur, the capital city of ancient Mithila. Drawn in lines, the paintings reflect aesthetic tastes, religious leanings, love for natural phenomenon, affection for the feminine beauty, divinity, and the panoramic view of the day-to-day life of the people. This painting as a form of wall art was traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls or the floors of huts.
Did you know that Madhubani artists follow certain styles? I didn’t until such time that I met Gambhira Devi. There are four distinct styles: 1) Kachni or line painting where numerous small straight lines are used. 2) Bharni or coloured paintings where various colours are filled after the line drawing is made. 3) Tantrik paintings where the subjects depicted are based solely on religious texts and characters related to them and 4) Godhna or Tatoo paintings where body art motifs have been adapted into various paintings.
Last year I chanced upon an artist’s work so surreal that had my gaze transfixed for a good 15 odd minutes (and this is long, considering you are standing in the blazing sun!). My first few thoughts – does anyone really use these colours in Madhubani and wow! the faces of the women are so gorgeous, not like the regular Madhubani you see around. They had a contemporary feel yet rooted in tradition, something fresh and experimental yet so authentic! I got to know that the artist was the amazingly talented lady called Bharti Dayal.
The artist, Bharti Dayal is from the Samastipur in Bihar, which was where the ancient kingdom of Mithila flourished and it seems that geography worked in her favour too. What she has done is introduce new themes without tampering with the tapestry. She is not only a vigorous proponent of Madhubani painting, but she also supports up-and-coming Madhubani artists. She has won many awards for her work, including India’s National Award for excellence in handicrafts in 2007, and taken part in exhibitions both in India and across the globe. In 1995 her work was the subject of a French television documentary. Shilpa reached out to her and Ms. Dayal was gracious enough to tell us more about her art. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Notjustashopper: Your painting ‘Tree of Life’ is much talked about. Tell us more about it. What is your inspiration behind it?
Bharti Dayal: My inspiration is women & womanhood. I feel a woman is the root of a tree and it is because of her that the family flourishes. Her character is the most important factor for the growth of life. A mother is the first school and her strength and depth is vital for the growth of family tree!
Notjustashopper: The colours you use are very different – vibrant, bold and striking, especially when compared to the other Mithila paintings we have seen.
Bharti Dayal: Yes, I use acrylic and vegetable colour and there is a reason for it.
While Ms.Dayal did not elaborate on this, the new medium has a longer life and possibly the reason for the shift. She does go back to nature for certain shades. She produces yellow from turmeric, dark orange from kusum flowers and the lighter orange from Harsingar.
Notjustashopper: Where does one buy your art from, apart from your website of course?
Bharti Dayal: You could buy my paintings from various art galleries . Both in India, Belgium and from my home cum studio.
Notjustashopper: Do you run workshops to teach your skill to adults interested in art and are there any special workshops? I am aware that you have taught a few young artists at your own cost, which is truly commendable.
Bharti Dayal: As part of the Skill Development Program organized by the Industries department of Delhi, I taught nearly 200 students, including some japanese and french students. However, I feel that learning the technique is the easy part. Putting your soul, emotion, devotion & commitment is the essence!
Notjustashopper: Do you paint only on canvas or can your creations be found on sarees or dupattas?
Bharti Dayal: I used to make some customised saris and duppattas, but now I solely focus on handmade paper and canvas.
Notjustashopper: Is there a charity or NGO that you run or support?
Bharti Dayal: I don’t run any NGO but I support more than 40 women mithila painters myself, from my own earning! I feel it is a human bond and you can call it charity!
Notjustashopper: Have you exhibited in the UK? Would you be exhibiting in the coming months?
Bharti Dayal: I have had two exibitions at the Nehru Centre through ICCR earlier. In the coming days, I would be exhibiting my work at Radhadesh, near Durbuy in Belgium for two month. I will be there for couple of days from 21 July, ’15.
Notjustashopper: Lastly, how tricky is it for someone sitting at home, who is fairly good with the brush, to create a Madhubani?
Bharti Dayal: It is tricky and a very responsible work to create a painting. I personally work all night on paintings so that the outer world can’t disturb me as I put my soul in my creation, on its intricacy, the concept & harmony! I think it depends on how much you can give and what do you want from the painting.
It was indeed a pleasure to get to know Ms. Bharti Dayal and get a glimpse of her insight! Our readers are indeed very lucky. Thank you Ms. Dayal.
Here is a collection of some of her brilliant work for you lovely people!
Since you have reached the end of this post, you perhaps are as fascinated and in awe of Ms. Bharti Dayal as we are. So, please by all means, feel free to connect with her on facebook and instagram and do have a peep at her website right here.
For all those upcoming artists, learn from her skills, knowledge and experience and for those of you who absolutely love a story in your home, own one of her stunning Madhubani paintings’ as soon as you humanly can. You may choose to spend hours talking to it, find peace simply looking at it or use it as a conversation starter, when entertaining! With so many uses, do you think you can live without a Madhubani?
Have an classy, arty weekend, people!
Cover image: via