Khobar in the Madhubani Style by Karpuri Devi⁣
Vegetable Ink on Paper⁣
Early 1970’s ⁣

“Love is to join and separate,⁣
To walk alone and together,⁣
To find a laughing freedom⁣
That lonely isolation does not permit.”⁣
– James Kavanaugh ⁣

Madhubani painting, indigenous to Bihar and Nepal, is known for its religious, mythological and social themes, painted on the eve of festivals, weddings or other joyous occasions. Natural vegetable dyes are painted with fingers, twigs or nibs. Madhubani paintings are intricately filled with symbolic motifs, including flora, fauna and human figures. Human figures are immediately recognised with their bulging fish-like eyes and sharp noses. The above painting by eminent folk artist Karpuri Devi, done with red and black dye on a cream canvas, is also known as Kohbar. Khobar is a drawing made inside the bedroom of newly-married couples, the central theme of which is love and fertility.

Karpuri Devi was born in Ranti, a village in Bihar in the Madhubani district. She was one of the few artists who practiced and propagated Madhubani Painting, also called Mithila Painting and Sujani embroidery. She was awarded several state awards and national merit certificate given by the Ministry of Textiles,India, Union government and several state awards for her pioneering work in reviving two art forms and making Madhubani Painting relevant on a global level. She actively participated and aided in the upliftment of women by teaching them Madhubani and enabling them to make a living wage off of it. She was also instrumental in the establishment of the Mithila Museum in Japan’s Tokamachi hills, alongside Tokio Hasegawa and the museum currently houses more than a thousand Madhubani artworks. Other significant artists who were pioneers of this artform were Dulari Devi and Mahasundari Devi, whereas the artists of the new generation like Manisha Jha, Malvika Raj, Sweta Jha and Pushpa Kumari are adding to this form by incorporating their own unique elements.

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