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The curious case of women in Bihar: Will they turn the political tables?

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photo credit: www.livemint.com
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By Sreyashi Mazumdar

 

Picture credit: thepoliticalindian.com
Picture credit: thepoliticalindian.com

Politics in Bihar is nothing less than a concoction of casteism and social issues which are effectively used by the political parties to hold their grounds. Caste based politics has been a persistent bait, manoeuvring the fate of Bihar politics for a considerable time now; be it Lalu Prasad Yadav riding the yadav community, Kurmis, Koeris, Muslims plumping for Nitish Kumar or BJP banking for upper castes like Bhumiyars, Kayasthas and Bramhims for their share in the game.

However, taking to a different genre altogether, the 46.6 per cent of the women folk constituting the vote bank in Bihar has turned out to be a game changer on several instances. For instance, in the 2005 Bihar assembly election, women played a significant role behind Nitish Kumar’s triumph; toeing on a similar line, the 2010 assembly election ended on a similar note, thanks to Nitish Kumar’s women centric schemes. Immediately after coming to episode- a whopping percentage of 54.4 per cent of women voters had cast their votes during the elections.

photo credit: indiatoday.intoday.in
photo credit: indiatoday.intoday.in

Ever since Nitish Kumar has been helming the affairs, there has been a considerable change in the electoral politics of Bihar. Though women in Bihar have always been politically conscious, their decisiveness seemed stronger during the 2005 assembly elections in the month of October and henceforth.

According to a report in thewire.in, the voting percentage of men came down by three per cent and in case of women it went up by two per cent in the year 2005. Further in 2010, 54.4 per cent of the women voters casted their votes as compared to 51.5 per cent of the male voters, thereby bringing forth a change in the political construct.

One of the major reasons corroborating the surging change in power was that he dished out a string of measures that would ensure women’s prosperity. In the year 2005, Kumar announced a 50 per cent reservation for women at the Panchayat level; further, in 2008 he distributed free land to women belonging to the Mahadalit and Muslim communities.

Besides that, he also rolled out a special scheme for girls appearing for the matriculation exams wherein a girl who bags a first division gets awarded with a hefty amount of Rs. 10,000 and the one with a second division receives Rs. 8,000. The chief minister delved into matters concerning hygiene. In the year 2014, he launched a program wherein school going girls from 8th to 12th standard will be given Rs 150 per annum for sanitary napkins.

photo credit: indianexpress.com
photo credit: indianexpress.com

Wading through the rugged terrain of a village located in rural Bihar, Nitish Kumar once paid a special visit to a group of women. Lending them a patient ear, he took into account the adversities of their lives. Alcoholism was one of the mutual concerns shared by the women inhabiting the village. “These women are right. If I return to power…I will have it stopped,” reciprocated Kumar.

Nevertheless, Nitish’s adversaries are equally tasking on philanthropy. In an attempt at wooing the women folk inhabiting Bihar, BJP has spelt out a number of schemes. One of the most talked of schemes includes Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. This flagship program enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has garnered a little support across the country, including Bihar.

photo credit: india.gov.in
photo credit: india.gov.in

 

Further, Amit Shah has been making relentless efforts to create a women-centric vote bank that might ascertain BJP led NDA’s triumph in the upcoming polls. For instance, the political whizz had asked his party workers and Bihar MPs to gift the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Yojna to as many women as possible aside from pushing the Sukanya Samridhi Yojna in the state.

“Both the parties have got 50-50 chances in the forthcoming election. The status of women in the state has seen a stark improvement since Nitish Kumar’s chief ministership, though the process had already started when Lalu came to power in the 1990’s. However, Modi’s reiteration on Jungle Raj- 2 and his schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao has influenced a lot of women and they are looking up to BJP as the party to helm the affairs in the state,” said Dr. Suraj Yadav, an academician and BJP candidate who had contested in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

He further added, “Women can be considered as a smaller chunk of the larger population who wield the power to tweak the forthcoming assembly elections in Bihar, though not in a major way. Taking a look into the socio-political construct of Bihar, one might get apprised of the nuances of the same. Women as a group can be further divided into varied castes; so, for instance – a woman hailing from the Kurmi community will be supporting Nitish Kumar, while the one from the Yadav community will be rendering her vote to Lalu Prasad Yadav.”

Reading into the possible complexities that might run into JD(U)- RJD’s way, Manish Kumar, a professor  at Patna University said, “Nitish Kumar might lose his ground considering his newfangled conjecture with Lalu Prasad Yadav. Lalu’s rule has been an infamous one; therefore, though Nitish Kumar talks of sushasan and women empowerment, Lalu’s jungle raj might scuttle RJD-JD(U)’s chances of winning the elections.”

Though Bihar has been persistently imbued with caste politics, a women centric vote bank comes as a game changer for the political gluttons of the state. Whether the new found pawns will turn the political tables is yet to be seen.

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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.