IJCH 2020 Vol.6(1): 1-7 ISSN: 2382-6177
doi: 10.18178/ijch.2020.6.1.141

The Madhubani Metamorphosis: The Intersection of Art, Ritual and Gender Roles

Aqsa Ashraf and Shreyasi Jha
Abstract—The Indian subcontinent has seen the emergence and extinction of multiple populaces, but the remnants of their existence have been reflected in the creations that they left behind, a form of which is visual-art. In its embryonic stages, visual-art was not individualistic, but rather an echo of the society put into one work of art, a portrayal of native lands and cultures. Madhubani painting, holding similar characteristics, was born in Mithila, home to four of the six Schools of Philosophy of ancient India. Mithila’s rich classical culture intermingling with the vivid folk traditions, led to the creation of multiple cultural rituals, out of which Madhubani painting is one. Madhubani painting started as a form of visual-art on an earthen surface, often coated with cow-dung called aripan, developing into a mural style of painting and was eventually commercialized, when paper and fabric was introduced to make the art portable and sellable. This form of art is a highly gendered space, mostly involving women, charged with ritualistic motifs used in the celebration of events, such as wedding rituals, harvests, chaurchan, kojagara and full moons, among others. From the 1970s, the artform has become more commercialized and individualistic rather than community based. The medium of the painting has transgressed from using dyes procured from natural resources such as soot, harshringar flower, bamboo reeds, etc. to the usage of fine-liner pens and other modern stationary items. The contemporary artists are compelled to conform to the ever-changing eagerness for novelty by the market, changing the intrinsic nature of this artistic space. Through our paper, we aim to adopt an anthropological approach to analyze the transition of Madhubani painting to a commercialized artform, encapsulating the features of avant-gardism from the highly ritualistic, gendered and most importantly, a vernacular artform of the people of Mithila.

Index Terms—Madhubani painting, art history, anthropology, artistic transition, rituals, gender.

Aqsa Ashraf and Shreyasi Jha are with the Gargi College, University of Delhi, India (e-mail: aqsaa.ashraf@gmail.com, shreyasiakhileshjha@gmail.com).

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Cite: Aqsa Ashraf and Shreyasi Jha, "The Madhubani Metamorphosis: The Intersection of Art, Ritual and Gender Roles," International Journal of Culture and History vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 1-7, 2020.

Copyright © 2020 by the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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