Bihar has a rich history and in ancient times it was a great religious centre for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. Great Empires like the Mauryas, Magadhas, Palas and the Mughals left an indelible mark on the culture and tradition of the country.
These paintings are practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar by the women folk hence are also referred to as Mithila paintings. In recent times they are also being taken up by the male population. These paintings are beautiful and eye-catching with their bright colours, motifs, flowers and geometrical patterns. Most of the paintings depict social events, nature, scenes from epics and are usually made on the eve of important dates like weddings, puja ceremonies etc. They are done with twigs, matchsticks, nib pens and fingers and are practised on cloth, paper and such other medium. The colours for the paintings are generally natural dyes derived from the vegetation found in the forest and other natural substances like soot and charcoal which are used for black colour and rice powder which gives white colour. Turmeric gives yellow colour, sandalwood gives red colour, indigo gives blue colour etc. These natural colours give a raw rural charm. The hallmark of these paintings are that there is no space in the painting or canvas left uncovered and though some of them will have a margin or border this too will be embellished with flowers, motifs and geometrical patterns. It is felt that different styles of Madhubani paintings like the Kachni (hatching) and Bharini (shading) style reflect upper classes with intricate patterns and more sophistication and the themes are restricted to mythology and religion while the lower classes portray themes on day to day life with less intricacy and sophistication and greater emphasis on depth and volume.
These paintings which are found in the Kaimur range of Bihar are engraved on the ceilings and walls of caves of ancient man with the help of sharp objects like metal pieces or rocks and later various indigenous colours extracted from leaves are applied on it. They depict natural environment and prehistoric life with drawings of sun, moon, animals, trees etc highlighting the daily life of humans like hunting, dancing, running etc.
Patna Qalam or Patna School of Painting
It is said to be an offshoot of the Mughal paintings and are characterised by life like representations and light coloured sketches of the daily lives of the common people like bazaar scenes, festival scenes, ceremonies, lives of rulers etc. Colours used are extracted indigenously from flowers, barks, plants and metals and the medium of painting is mica, glass and ivory sheets. These paintings are painted without using the pencil but instead are painted straightaway with the brush with a technique referred to as Kaji Siyahi with the figures having features characterised by heavy eyebrows, pointed noses, sunken eyes and thick moustaches.