On a wall in the Delhi Crafts Museum, several years ago, I spot mural painting in the Mithila folk style. This is traditionally an art form done by women, painted on the walls of houses, in celebration of major events such as births, marriages and festivals, are very common in teh sate of Bihar. The Mithila style form the collective of naive styles of paintings done upon hand made paper, plastered walls, timber structures in India. As vast as its expanse, so follows the variety.
Even from afar, the murals were striking. They were large, almost 6-7 feet in height, and spread across the entire wall in a series of arches. Each arch contained one painting. This one below, for instance, shows the Goddess Durga astride her tiger, framed inside an ornamented arch.
After a nice cardamom tea in a terracota cup, my husband and I decide to browse the art shop on the premises.
Rice and textile handmade paper are jutted with paintings of God and Goddesses along with domestic scenes. The colours are bold, and the flat filling-in of colour outlined made images are visually stimulating. Large elongated almond shaped eyes stare intensely at you while decorative patterns juggle for fit in. Below the painting, the artist signed her name: Shrimati Mundrika Devi, from a village called Jitvarpur in Madhubani District, in the state of Bihar.
When I look a little closer at the painting, I found myself loving the “double-line” approach. All the outlines were double lines, with the inner portions either left blank, or filled in colour, or filled with little lines. Here’s a close-up of one of the small ducks at the top of the mural: see how the double lines and colouring contributes to the rich detailing? Every object in the painting, from the smallest flower, to the largest human, was painted with the same careful attention.
After five minutes of staring closely at small aspects of the painting, I found myself slipping into the shoes of the painter – what was she thinking, Mundrika Devi, when she drew these? Were the walls of her home also filled with these paintings? Did she lose herself in the lines as she painted, did she forget to make dinner? Or did she, as she cooked and tended her house, look again and again at her creation, mentally adding little details?
The more I visualised the life of the painter, the more the painting appealed to me. This was not “Art” as a leisure activity for those with spare time and money. This was art enterwined in the daily life, in the very heart beat of a woman. The very sort of a space, am searching for myself to don to my brushes and paint.