Mithila Paintings Seen in Malaysia

I have heard much about Madhubani (forest of honey) paintings produced by the traditional women artists of the district of Mithila in the region of Nepal and the northern part of Bihar.

I had the good fortune today to see in person a foremost Madhubani artist at the Global Indian Fest which ended today at the Midvalley shopping complex in Kuala Lumpur.

Shanti Devi, 61, was part of a trade team from India participating in the annual festival organised by Agenda Suria Communication. Thanks to this fest I am now the proud owner of one of the artist’s black and white paintings depicting the goddess Kali.

Shanti says the intricate details of the goddess and a tree which is a common unifying feature seen in a Madhubani painting, are lovingly drawn using fingers, wooden picks and a pen nib dipped in colours extracted from plants and flowers.

The artform categorised under the naive art genre, is said to have existed from the time of the Rama-Sita wedding. Sita’s father, King Janaka had ordered the people of Nepal to paint the walls of the buildings of his kingdom to welcome the wedding party from Ayodhya.

This tradition had thenceforth continued as a traditional wall painting artform servong as a fertility rite in preparation for weddings.

With the support of government authorities and Western philosophers and art afficionados, the artists comprising the womenfolk of the villages, started painting on paper surfaces in the 50s. This helped them to sell their works to subsidise the family income.

Sadly most city folks who visited the festival failed to see the value of Shanti’s beautiful art pieces which were offfered from RM50 to a few hundred ringgit for the detailed pieces.

The crowd of thousands at the fair only had eyes for the clothes, cosmetic jewellery and other sense gratificatory products amassed at the fair.

It is obvious that art appreciation is a virtue that is still much lacking among the Malaysian public.

R. Sittamparam.


Sittam Param

Writer, poet, dramatist and former journalist. I have passion for art in all its forms hence my involvement in this portal.

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