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The Cast(e) of Paintings

With the objective of making Madhubani form of paintings more popular across the world and in return creating Madhubani art center, the jha sisters hold their exhibition of Madhubani paintings at Kala academy, writes Naguesh R Sardessai.

If you will think that Madhubani paintings are to be found only in the region of Bihar then you will be surprised to know that three young and beautiful ladies have made it a point to get this form of paintings to Goa.

Beginning in the year 1998 the Jha sisters, namely Manisha, Bandana and Puja have consistently exhibited their works in Goa at Kala Academy’s Art Gallery. This time too they are showing their Madhubani styled paintings at the said art Gallery. Armed with a degree in Architecture with M-tech in their kitty, all three sisters are passionate about painting. Their objective of holding

these exhibitions is to make Madhubani form of painting popular across the world which in turn, they opine, will help in creation of Madhubani Art Center.

Madhubani Painting
 by Manisha

This center will create self- employment opportunities for the poor women of Mithila from where this art form has originated.

More than eighty works displayed have various themes depicted in them like the scenes right from the Panchtantra to Hindu Mythology, from the normal tourist scene to ecological. The paintings have detailed and decorative elements, fine line work and vibrant colors catching the viewer’s attention. The figures and forms are stylized with heavy decoration covering the remaining portion of the paintings. Even the human form is not left alone sans decoration.

Even whilst portraying the current social themes like women’s state and role in the modern context and other such types the sisters have treaded carefully so as not to disturb the originality of the art form and they have been successful in doing that which in itself is commendable.

Born in Madhubani, Bihar the sisters are naturally influenced by this art form. And to add to that, came the support and guidance of their grandmother to whom they say they are grateful. They have exhibited their works in Major cities of India and elder one of the trio, Manisha has even won awards for her works.
Manisha conducts workshops in Baroda. With the help of her sisters, of Madhubani paintings across the country in various schools and educational institutions, for the young and old, including the challenged kids. The sisters recently conducted a workshop for the special children of Delhi at British council, New Delhi. Fulfilling their social obligation, besides helping decorate people’s wall with eye-catching paintings, make these artists stand apart.

What was intriguing of the show was the usage of three notably distinct hues. Few of the works were in bright colors whilst the others were in dull and dark shades with peculiar style of composition and still others were in monochromes. Seeing the predicament of this writer Manisha, came forward to explain there are three different styles of Madhubani paintings, each evolved with the same twin purpose of decorating the house during the festivals and social events like wedding, thread ceremonies etc. And acting as a mascot to ward off the evil eye. Painting these was also reactional activity for the women folk of the house.”

“Due to strong caste differences, ”Manisha elaborated, ”the three major castes namely the Brahmins, kayasthas and the harijan developed their own individual styles influenced by their distinctly individual social character. The Brahmins had their works painted with colorful hues, pink and yellow were applied for the male and the female respectively, especially where a bride and groom had to be represented. The kayasthas on the contrary used monochromes, especially the shades of black and white. Whilst the style, character and the content of the above two remained identical, the Harijans had an all-together unique character to their paintings.

They divided the picture area into horizontal strips into which a small form is drawn in a sequential manner most of the time repeating the same form over the entire space giving it a character of a block print that is usually seen on the sari borders. This style of painting is colloquially called ‘Goidana’ – Tattoo. The colors used were also dull and on the darker side of the color spectrum.

Some of the works that are worth mention are ‘Mahikhasur Mardini’, the ‘three monkeys’, ‘holy Ghats of Benaras’ for minimalist application of hues and delicate usage of lines. ‘Radha- Krishna’ and Kadamba tree are done in typical Brahmin style with heavy use of bright and cheerful colors, combined with bold and delicate lines. Goa and the Five Senses are the other ones that catch ones attention along with two huge floors to ceiling scroll paintings.

In the five senses she has attempted to be more cerebral by getting in more symbolism. The painting divided into five box represent the five senses in a human being and they are further represented by the respective symbols. But in the Kadamba tree they deliberately tried to please the eyes with decorative motifs and eye-catching colors.

What is unique about these Madhubani works is the effort to use modern methods and pigments like the acrylic colors on canvas, poster colors on paper and fabric colors on glass, besides adhering to the traditional ways of using vegetable dyes over the cow dung smeared ground. The show is till 31 December.

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