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Madhubani – literally means from the “garden of honey”.
Practiced for centuries, this style of painting is still practiced in the villages found in the state of Bihar, in the foothills of the Himalayas bordering Nepal. This is an area of rich and ancient traditions – the site of the ancient University of Nalanda and the birthplace of the Buddha. It was a tradition practiced mostly by women and passed from mother to daughter. The themes painted depict enduring cultural traditions of the community that are religious or social or from nature.
Paintings with religious themes illustrate stories from the lives of Rama, Buddha, Krishna or scenes from the two great Indian epic – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Paintings with social themes show customs & rituals such as marriage, birth, thread ceremony, depictions of rural life and agriculture, festivals and superstitions.
Paintings with themes from nature are pictorial narratives of rural life and celestial bodies such as the sun and moon.
There is much symbolism in the paintings such as the central themes of love and fertility. Others include fish for good luck, peacock for romantic love/devotion, serpents for divine protection and banana for fertility.