Maithil Painters of Nepal

About the Artist

Maithil Painters of Nepal
Maithil Painters of Nepal

The Maithil paintings of Nepal and the Mithila or Madhubani paintings of Northern Bihar, India are two sides of the same art form.  The historic Mithila kingdom once spread across the southeast plains of Nepal and the northern Bihar and Jharkhand states of India.  In both countries an ancient domestic wall painting tradition has been adapted to painting on paper, but it has evolved differently and at different times in the two countries. 

Artists associated with the Janakpur Women's Development Center, founded in 1989, are earning recognition as some of the finest contemporary artists in Nepal.  To date, their work has been exhibited in the U.S.A., U.K., the Federal Republic of Germany and Belgium. The artists' pleasure in the development of a profession, and in the new-found freedom to express themselves through painting, is reflected in the stories they tell in these pages.

The paintings are rooted in traditions which Maithil women have passed down through generations. On the occasion of marriage or for festivals such as Deepawali, Maithil women paint lively designs on the mud walls of their houses. During Deepawali, in order to attract Laxmi the goddess of wealth, they paint designs of elephants and peacocks which symbolize prosperity, as well as images of tigers, birds, and other animals. In monsoon season the paintings fade or wash away.

Janakpur is now famous for its colorful paintings on paper, yet this "tradition" began in the first days of the JWDC when, under a grant from the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust, a talented group of women were selected to learn how to transfer their wall designs to paper. They travelled from their villages to the Center in Janakpur where, without losing their originality, they developed skills in composition as well as in the use of color and line. After various experiments, it was decided to paint on Nepali handmade lokta (daphne) paper which had the rough texture of mud walls. Then, after trying pens and sticks, the women decided on brushes, and after experimenting with their own dyes and pigments which they mixed with milk, they found that acrylic paint worked best on Nepali paper and could be used as spontaneously as the dyes and home-made paints applied to house walls. And so it was that the JWDC created both the form and medium of what is known today as "Janakpur painting".

The first show of the artists' works on paper was held in 1990 at the American Library in Kathmandu. It was just after the People's Movement which established democracy in Nepal, and with the new democratic spirit this first show of Maithil art from southern Nepal received warm welcome. The artists gained support from the United Nations Development Fund for Women, as well as other donor agencies, and both their organization and their art began to flourish.

There was by then a strong core of women, most of whom were illiterate, and who had never taken part in any kind of organization. They loved coming to the "office" in Janakpur, a comfortable and supportive environment with women of many backgrounds, free from the constraints of the village. Through being associated with a development project they were soon making paintings promoting Vitamin A, the chance to vote, safe sex and saying "no" to drugs. Proud of their traditional culture, they continued to illustrate Maithil rituals or to make paintings of gods Ram and Sita who, according to legend, married in Janakpur. And in the "office" where they sang songs or told tales of the Hindu gods, they naturally painted scenes from the Ramayana or from Maithil songs and folktales. Many women have enjoyed painting the Maithil tale of Anjur, a tale in which a new bride is made to do impossible tasks by her jealous sisters-in-law, and each time is helped by sympathetic birds or snakes. They often mix images of other tales with Anjur's tale, and similarly Gods will appear in scenes of family planning. This mixing of themes is a reflection of the real world of the Janakpur artists today.   (Text courtesy of Claire Burkett, of the Janakpur Women's Development Centre).

Region:
Three Goats
SKU: MHL-2210

Rebati Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2021
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 30" w. ).

$325

Pregnant Elephant with Spectacles
SKU: MTHL-2208

Rebati Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2021
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 30" w. ).

$300

Mango Season
SKU: MTHL-2106

Usmila Yadaw - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 30" w. ).

$275

Tiger
SKU: MTHL-2107

Sudhiga Karna - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 30" w. ).

$275

Nursing Cow
SKU: MTHL-2108

Rebati Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 30" w. ).

$275

The Kathmandu Bus in Covid Times
SKU: MTHL-2209

Manjula Thakur - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2021
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 30" w.).

$275

Goat painted with Handprints for Tihar Festival
SKU: MTHL-2207

Rebati Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2021
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 30" w.).

Tihar, also known as Deepawali and Yamapanchak or Swanti, is a five-day Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal and Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal, which host a large number of ethnic Nepali people. Tihar is analogous to the Indian festival of Diwali, the festival of lights, but with some significant differences. (excerpt from Wikipedia)

$225

Maithili Bicycle
SKU: MTHL-2206

Madhumala Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2021
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 30" w. ).

$185

Mother of Twins Going to Market
SKU: MTHL-2202

Rebati Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2021
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(20" h. x 15" w.).

$155

Goat painted with Handprints for Tihar Festival
SKU: MTHL-2201

Rebati Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2021
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(15" h. x 20" w.).

Tihar, also known as Deepawali and Yamapanchak or Swanti, is a five-day Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal and Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal, which host a large number of ethnic Nepali people. Tihar is analogous to the Indian festival of Diwali, the festival of lights, but with some significant differences. (excerpt from Wikipedia)

$145

Cow and Calf
SKU: MTHL-2109

Manjula Devi Thakur - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(15" h. x 20 1/4" w.).

$135

On the Bus
SKU: MTHL-2110

Sohag Wati Sahi - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(14" h. x 19" w.).

$135

Cow and Buffalo
SKU: MTHL-2111

Remani Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(14" h. x 19" w.).

$135

Rural Life
SKU: MTHL-2112

Remani Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(15" h. x 20" w.).

$135

Rickshaw
SKU: MTHL-2113

Pano Das - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(15" h. x 19 3/4" w.).

$135

Flying Machine
SKU: MTHL-1801

Sumitra Yadav - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(15" h. x 10" w. ).

$75

Product Status: 
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Helicopter
SKU: MTHL-1802

Phaulwa Mandal - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(10" h. x 15" w. ).

$75

Product Status: 
Sold
Horseless Carriage
SKU: MTHL-1803

Unknown Maithil painter - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(10" h. x 15" w. ).

$75

Product Status: 
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Nursing Deer
SKU: MTHL-1806

Unknown Maithil painter - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(8" h. x 12" w. ).

$48

Product Status: 
Sold
Tiger attacking Deer
SKU: MTHL-1808

Unknown Maithil painter - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(8" h. x 12" w. ).

$48

Product Status: 
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Blue Goat with Kid
SKU: MTHL-1810

Unknown Maithil painter - Kuwa village, Janakpur, Nepal
c.2016
Acrylic paint on handmade lokta paper
(8" h. x 12" w. ).

$48

Product Status: 
Sold