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Cool Bihari: Bihari Art & Culture - Mithila Painting & Patna Kalam

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Bihari Art & Culture - Mithila Painting & Patna Kalam

Bihar is globally renowned for few unique offerings which is a reflection of its splendid culture and heritage. Some of these products and offerings are global names due to the intricacies of the craft and uniqueness.


Mithila Painting is has a large worldwide market today and is a name to reckon with the cognoscente. Mithila style of paintings is believed to originate at the time of the Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to do paintings at the time of marriage of his daughter, Sita, to Lord Ram. Madhubani painting has been done traditionally by the women of villages around the present town of Madhubani (the literal meaning of which is forests of honey) and other areas of Mithila. The painting was traditionally done on freshly plastered mud wall of huts, but now it is also done on cloth, hand-made paper and canvas.

In Mithila, painting is normally done by women folk in three forms: painting on floor, painting on wall and painting on movable objects. Aripan, under the first category, is made on the floor with the paste of arva (crude) rice. This rice paste is called pithar in the local language. Apart from the floor it is also made on banana and maina leaves and pidhi (wooden seats).

The tradition of wall paintings as well as surface paintings for beautification of dwellings and ritual purposes in Mithila is believed to have survived from the epic period. Tulsidasa in his magnum opus the Ramcharitamanasa gives a vivid account of Mithila painting decorated for the marriage of Sita and Rama. The present form of Mithila paintings, also called Madhubani paintings, are the translation of the wall paintings, floor paintings and terracotta idols onto paper or canvas.

Not many know but Patna also has a unique form of art tradition known as “Patna Kalam”. Britishers to Patna during the early 19th century apart from trade and commerce were drawn by Patna Kalam art. Patna was a thriving centre of art during this period, with art-loving colonisers regularly thronging the dark and dingy lanes and bylanes of the city for a glimpse of "Patna Kalam" artists working in their mussavir khanas (art-studios).

And these paintings had a seminal influence on their connoisseurs—artists like Richard Cosway and John Smart came to Patna all the way from London to learn the techniques and Sir Charles Doly even tried to commercialise and hardsell the art internationally. Assimilated into phirangi art or "company painting", Patna Kalam reigned supreme in the realm of Indian art for well over 187 years, beginning 1760.

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nice article on mithila painting


patna qalam
what is the meaning of qalam?

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