Meeting Janakpur’s Mithila Artists


I loved the Mithila artwork I saw in Kathmandu, long before I knew anything about it or where it came from. Mithila paintings and painted objects, such as mirrors, trays and cups, have a distinctive primitive style that is colorful and appealing. You can find their handiwork in most “Fair Trade” shops in Kathmandu for a very reasonable price, and before I had the chance to go down and see the artists at work, I had collected quite a few pieces that I loved, as well as sending them as gifts for friends and family.

So when I learnt we were going to Janakpur, I hoped that I would get a chance to see some of the art being produced.  I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t to see the art incorporated into everyday life such as government buildings and schools.  Even the otherwise, very shabby airport building had a wonderful collection of Mithila paintings.  It was surprising and delightful to me that the tradition still held strong without tourism spurring it on.

So when I had the chance to visit the Janakpur Women’s Development Center, I was very excited to see what their operation and watch the artists at work.

The Center is located in an attractive wall compound about 15 minutes outside of Janakpur town.  Screenprinting, art and pottery studios surround the internal courtyard and the ladies showed me around all the activities going on.  The walls and pillars are decorated in a traditional local style that reminded me of South Western native american Adobe.  It was a very peaceful place.

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Mithili art at the nearby Janaki temple

The Center provides a great opportunity to keep the Mithili art tradition alive, as well as providing an independent income to rural women in the area.  Its open to the public by prior appointment for tours and they have a small sales room were you can buy their works. Totally worth a visit if you are in the area.

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