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Obituary: Karpuri Devi, the artist who made Mithila art reach global heights

Madhubani art is known form of art which are made on eve of festivals, rituals weddings and ceremonies. Karpuri Devi was an acclaimed artist and winner of National Merit award in Sujani craft.

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Madhubani art is known form of art which are made on eve of festivals, rituals weddings and ceremonies. Karpuri Devi was an acclaimed artist and winner of National Merit award in Sujani craft

The doyen of the famously known Madhubani art or Mithila paintings, Karpuri Devi breathed last today morning in a private hospital of Madhubani. He was ailing since two months. Her demise has brought a wave of grief among state’s cultural fraternity.

She was known for enriching the tradition of art which over centuries, people of Mithila developed. From domestic exposure of floor painting and wall painting her efforts made the art reach the global platform.

Madhubani art is known form of art which are made on eve of festivals, rituals weddings and ceremonies. Karpuri Devi was an acclaimed artist and winner of National Merit award in Sujani craft (1986) by Ministry of textiles, Government of India and several state awards.

As brilliant artist of Madhubani painting, Karpuri Devi’s works were not only exhibited in state but also on foreign soil such as Japan, United Kingdom, France and USA. She belonged to first generation of Mithila painting artists who brought it on global landscape. She had remained the most travelled Mithila artist who had paid visit to Japan the most number of times spending nearly a decade in Japan  working at Mithila Museum in Tokamachi. In 1987, she was invited to Japan to work at the Mithila Museum.

Tokio Hasegawa, a 16th generation Tokyo resident and a renowned musician lauded efforts of Karpuri Devi which later ended up in setting up of museum dedicated to Mithila painting in Japan. The ‘Mithila Museum’, situated in Tokamachi hills in Japan`s Niigata prefecture is a brainchild of Hasegawa.

Since the 1990s, Japan has shown a keen interest in Madhubani paintings, mainly because of the initiative taken by Tokyo Hasegawa, who set up the Mithila Museum in Tokamachi, where around 850 Madhubani paintings were exhibited on a regular basis.

It was W.G. Archer, a British man in the Indian Civil Service, who first brought these paintings to the attention of the outside world but after the great Bihar earthquake in 1934 and prolonged drought, from 1966 to 1968, which had crippled the agricultural economy of the region kept this unique form of art far from any lime light.

Speaking to Newsd Rakesh Jha a Mithila painting artist and founder of Craftvala, an organization that works on rural empowerment said:

“Demise of Karpuri Devi has shocked us immensely as she was one of the foremost artist who curved a path for women of Mithila region to enter the art world, explore it and earn name for it. Karpuri Devi practically led women empowerment through an art form.”

Karpuri Ji’s effort as imprint will remain on world map and this indeed is an immortal contribution of a doyen of Madhubani art added Rakesh.

Another giant expert of Alphabet based on geometrical shape of Mithila art, Krishna Kumar Kashyap recalled his association with Karpuri Devi and said- Karpuri Devi was the first person to divert my attention towards Sujani form of painting terming it as ‘Live form of Geometry in form of art’. There will be none like Karpuri Devi.

Karpuri Devi was the only expert to have hold on two major forms of art i.e. Sujani kala and Madhubani kala that remains an unmatched quality. Sujani (also known as Sujini) is a form of embroidery originating from the Bhusura village of Bihar in India. In ancient times, it was considered as a form of quilting wherein old sarees and dhotis were used as the creative canvas, the cloth was folded twice or thrice and then simple stitches were done on these used clothing to add newness to them.

Sudden demise of Karpuri Devi has left the art world of Mithila painting bereft. She is survived by a daughter named Moti Karn who also happens to be renowned Madhubani artist and a son, Vinay Bhushan. She would be cremated at Ranti which is widely known as Madhubani art den.

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