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Tales for a Home: Speak Tibet to live Tibet (Part 3)

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By Sagar Sethi

Mujhe Indian citizenship nahi chahiye’ (I do not want an Indian citizenship).

Agar mein le loonga, toh mein Indian ban gaya. Mera baccha hoga aur aise aise hi Tibet –ka culture khatam ho jayega’ (Once I take it (Indian Citizenship), I will become an Indian. I will have kids, and they will someday take it too; and that is how the Tibetan culture would fade!).

Tsering Phuntsok has been residing in Majnu ka Tila for the last thirty nine years. Well versed in speaking the old Tibetan language, it seems his birth in India did not impinge on his cultural rearing.

Tenzin Kalden
Tenzin Kalden at a restaurant in MKT

He did express hope to see his home in Tibet, but not with much optimism, as he tells us, ‘Koi guarantee nahi hai. Humaara generation mein toh mushkil hai’ (There is no assurance. In my lifetime, a free Tibet is almost impossible).

Then why fear? Become a citizen of India, and live Tibet style.

Tenzin’s father journeyed to India more than fifty years ago; for religious reasons and settled down in Majnu ka Tila. This nineteen year old Tibetan refugee reveals how aloof he feels from his motherland – ‘I don’t want to see Tibet, as only the Han Chinese live there,’ says Tenzin.

Also born in India, Tenzin has been groomed within a westernised India; a diversely religious, caste-ridden society that interacts constantly with the ideals and notions of western modernisation and models of development.

He tells us how he can’t speak the Tibetan language, unlike his father. Instead he is well versed in English, and pursues a career in film making. He even prefers eating his chow with a fork, not with chopsticks!

There are many others like Tenzin in Majnu ka Tila. We don’t know how far Tibet’s culture has already faded.

Tenzin’s isolation from Tibet’s culture Andrew Martin Fischer writes in his The Disempowered Development of Tibet in China– derives mostly from the fact that he cannot speak the Tibetan language. Is linguistic unity the only hope?

Tsering Phuntsok (on the right) with his friend Tempa (1)
Tsering Phuntsok (on the right) with his friend Tempa

In his ‘Preserving a Heritage Facing Threat of Extinction’, Geshe Lhakdor writes, “Today we can proudly say that the entire Tibetan culture in its authentic form is available in exile.”

The significance of preserving this ‘rich, compassionate and non-violent’ Tibetan culture, he further writes, becomes even more significant in this “conflict ridden world, where people pay more importance primarily to financial power and military might.”

“They bring in big weapons and tanks…special air forces. We are Buddhist monks, we have no weapon, and we have no military. Only Buddhist texts, that’s all.” (Cited from the video below)

 

For more, read:

Tales for a home: Tibet towards freedom (Part 1)
Tales for a Home: Tibet marches from exile to extinction? (Part 2)

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10 Facts about Madhubani Paintings which will blow your mind

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station.

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A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons

Madhubani Paintings, also known as Mithila Paintings are the quintessence folk art form of Mithila Region of Bihar. The art form is incredibly old and the name ‘Madhubani’ which means, ‘forest of honey,’ has a lineage of more than 2500 years.These paintings are the local art of Madhubani district of Bihar, which is also the biggest exporter of Madhubani paintings in India.

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station. The painting spans across an area of 7000 square feet and is expected to attract tourism to the Madhubani District. Madhubani art has received international and national attention in recent times.

Paintings and art are a reflection of the culture and tradition of the place from where they originate. Madhubani paintings are an important part of the Indian Culture. Madhubani painting in black and white are some of the oldest and most beautiful art that people can witness and admire. The style, which was losing its importance earlier is once again emerging as a major art form.

A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common
A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common

Here are 10 facts about Madhubani paintings which will blow your mind :

  • The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the days of Ramayana. The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the time of Ramayana when king Janaka asked an artist to capture the wedding of his daughter Sita with prince Rama. He commissioned craftsmen to decorate the entire kingdom with Madhubani art on the auspicious occasion of his daughter’s marriage. That’s one of the earliest mentions of Madhubani paintings that can be found in ancient scriptures and text.
  • Madhubani Paintings have 5 distinct styles to delight our eyes. Madhubani art has five distinctive styles, namely, Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar. In ancient times, Bharni, Kachni and Tantrik style were done by Brahman and Kayastha women, who were considered ‘upper caste.’ Their themes were mainly religious and depicted Gods and Goddesses, flora and fauna. People belonging to lower castes including aspects of their daily life and symbols into their paintings.Nowadays, however, Madhubani has become a globalised art form. There is no difference in the work of different artists of different regions or castes.
  • Madhubani paintings are done using different kinds of everyday materials. In past, Madhubani painting was done using fingers, twigs. Now, matchsticks and pen nibs are also used. Usually, bright colours are used in these paintings with an outline made from rice paste as its framework. These paintings rarely have any blank spaces. Borders are often embellished with geometric and floral patterns. These paintings use natural dyes. For example, Madhubani paintings in black and white often use charcoal and soot for the black colour.
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
  • Madhubani art is characterised by symbols and figures. Madhubani paintings are characterised by figures that are prominently outlined, like bulging fish-like eyes and pointed noses. The themes of Madhubani paintings usually include natural elements like fish, birds, animals, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo trees and flowers, like a lotus. Love, valour, devotion, fertility, and prosperity are often symbolized by geometric patterns, which is another important feature of this art form.
  • From Mud-Walls to Canvas. Earlier, Madhubani paintings were made by women on freshly plastered mud-walls of their houses during religious occasions. The skill has been passed onto from one generation to another. Today, this artwork can be found on an international platform on mediums like cloth, paper, canvas, paper-mache products, etc.
  • Discovered and brought to attention by William G. Archer. Madhubani paintings, though prominent in India, were unknown to the outside world until a colonizer, William G. Archer found them. While he was inspecting the damage after the massive earthquake of  Bihar in 1934, Archer was amazed when he discovered the beautiful illustrations on the interior walls of the huts. He decided to bring the attention of other colonizers to this art form and introduced it internationally.

    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
  • Madhubani is an Instinctive Art Form. Madhubani art is created without the use of sketches, they are made instinctively by the artists. This feature not only makes Madhubani paintings unique but also incredibly exclusive.
  • Madhubani painting also prevents Deforestation. Surprised? This folk art is not just mere decorations on the wall, it is also used for worship. Artists in Bihar draw paintings depicting Hindu deities on trees and those who hold strong religious beliefs, prevent others from chopping those trees down. This plays a big role in preventing trees from being cut down.
  • The Connection with Feng shui. Madhubani paintings use symbols and geometric figures which have a strong association with the Feng Shui philosophy. The use of flowers, especially the lotus, birds,  fishes, and turtles which we find in Madhubani paintings, are closely linked to the concept of divinity and spirituality in Feng Shui. Madhubani painting is believed to bring with them, the benefits of Feng Shui as well.

    Madhubani painting rarely has any spaces. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings rarely have any empty spaces. Wikimedia Common
  • The Importance of Sun in Madhubani. Since ancient times, the sun has always been an important symbol of nature worship. The Sun also occupies such an important place in the Madhubani paintings. There are paintings wholly dedicated to the Sun, in which it can be seen painted in different moods and colours. Every Madhubani home has one painting of the Sun which they worship daily.