Madhubani painting is one of the many famous Indian art forms. As it is practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar and Nepal, it is called Mithila or Madhubani art. Often characterized by complex geometrical patterns, these paintings are known for representing ritual content for particular occasions, including festivals, religious rituals, etc. The colours used in Madhubani paintings are usually derived from plants and other natural sources. Some of the initial references to the Madhubani painting can be found in the Hindu epic Ramayana when King Janaka, Sita’s father, asked his painters to create Madhubani paintings for his daughter’s wedding. The knowledge was passed down from generation to generation and the paintings began to adorn the houses of the region. The art form became more famous in women and the women of the village practiced these paintings on the walls of their respective home. Their paintings often illustrated their thoughts, hopes and dreams. One such artist who hoped of painting her thoughts and gave them a dream like appearance is Godawari Dutta.
Godawari Dutta is from Bahadurpur village of Dharbhanga district of Bihar. She was inclined towards Madhubani art since the age of 6. She used to hide her paintings from her mother thinking that she will be scolded by her. Her mother Subhadra Devi, who was also a Madhubani artist once saw her paintings and praised her work and said that Godawari will become a great artist one day. She encouraged her to not panic and continue with her art. This the same advice Godawari Dutta gave to young artist when she was conferred with Padma Shri in January 2019.
Dutta’s paintings are full of bright colours and depict the various celebration of human life. But Dutta’s own life was not that colourful. She lost her father at the age of 10. Her mother had tough time bringing up her 4 children. Later, Dutta got married in 1947 but her husband ran to Nepal and married someone else. Since then she lives in Madhubani district along with her paintings and her son. Maybe the pain in her life and the struggle she went through was the reason she found colours in every walk of life and painted them on her canvas which became a world in its own right and was appreciated all over the globe.
Godawari Dutta helped in establishing the Mithila Museum in Takomachi, Japan which houses more than 850 Mithila paintings from various artists. The project took 7 years for which Godawari Dutta had to stay in Japan for 6 months a year. Dutta, who has also been to Germany, now dreams of writing a book on the art form as the art form is majorly taught from generation to generation orally. For her work in the field of Madhubani art, Godawari Dutta received National Award in 1980 and was conferred with the title of “Shilp Guru” by President Pratibha Patil in 2006. In 2019, her work was recognized once again by the nation when she was conferred with Padma Shri.
When asked how she felt after receiving Padma Shri, Godawari Dutta said that she is more than happy and feels that her hard work is finally being paid by popularizing the dying art form of India. Godawari Dutta who is optimistic about the length to which Madhubani art will flourish still wishes that more help from Madhubani artists and Government will help in transforming this traditional art form into something which will become daily life of every Indian. After all, this is the art form of those women who lived a life of hardship but told us their dreams with colours. They had their expressions painted in Radha and Sita and their expectations painted in Rama and Krishna.
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