de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

Sacred Images: Deities and Marriages in Mithila Painting

April 10 - May 25, 2007


Since at least the 14th century, women in the Mithila region of Bihar have painted gods, goddesses, and icons of fertility on the walls of their homes. In the late 1960s they began transferring their paintings to paper. Since then many women—and a few men—have elaborated several distinct styles of Mithila painting and have dramatically expanded the subjects of their paintings. This exhibition will include approximately twenty works, providing an excellent introduction to the Mithila painting tradition. The exhibition is focused on representations of deities and on the marriage ritual.

Traditionally, Hindu gods and goddesses have provided the main subject matter for Mithila painters. These paintings serve an important spiritual function, creating auspicious and protective settings for the family’s rituals. This exhibition features several of the most frequently represented deities, including Durga, Kali, Ganesh, Sita, Krishna, and Ardhanarishwara.

Marriage rituals also provide inspiration to the Mithila painters. Weddings in the Mithila region are elaborate, involving unfolding rituals that take place over the course of days. In many of the paintings created for or inspired by the marriage ritual, the kohbar—an intricate symbol of fertility, protection, and well-being for the new married couple—figures prominently. This exhibition will feature several interpretations of the kohbar created by different artists of the region.

This exhibition is organized by PinkMango: The Indian Artisan and the Ethnic Arts Foundation and is guest curated by Malini Bakshi and David L. Szanton.

Image: Munee Mishra, Madhubani, Kohbar, 1995, watercolor on paper, Courtesy of PinkMango.