Asian Art Museum | Education

The best of Asian art at the tip of your fingers for use in the classroom or at home.

Sign up

In My Resources you can save the content you like all in one place. Get started by creating an account.

Create a new account

Creating a Mithila-style painting (activity)

The Hindu deity, Krishna overcoming the serpent Kaliya

The Hindu deity, Krishna overcoming the serpent Kaliya, 1988, by Baua Devi. India; Mithila, Bihar. Museum purchase1999.39.16

A holy man in the forest (Shiva as Lord of the Animals)

A holy man in the forest (Shiva as Lord of the Animals), 1981, by Jogmaya Devi. India; Mithila, Bihar. Ink and colors on paper. Museum purchase, 1999.39.39.

Radha and Krishna under Kandab tree

Radha and Krishna under Kandab tree, 1985, by Kapoori Devi. India; Mithila, Bihar. Museum purchase, 1999.39.47.

Govind Maharaj with His Friends on Horse to Kamaru Kamakhaj

Govind Maharaj with His Friends on Horse to Kamaru Kamakhaj, by Shanti Devi (born 1926). India; Mithila, Bihar. Ink and colors on paper. Museum purchase, 1999.39.23.


Students identify the characteristics of Mithila paintings and create their own Mithila-style paintings.

45 minutes
Keyword Results: 

Mithila-style paintings were traditionally painted by women. To the people of Mithila, the painting of these images can be a devotional or meditative act which brings the painter close to the deity being painted.

Mithila paintings are sometimes called Madhubani which means "honey forest." Mithila paintings have been in existence for nearly three thousand years and were originally painted on walls to decorate homes. They often include geometric designs and bright colors and have always been painted by women.

Materials: See Downloads Above: Legend of Krishna Packet, Activity Sheets F-H


  1. Have students look at several examples of other Mithila-style paintings from the Asian Art Museum collection (see images above and/or Activity sheets F, G, and H). Discuss with students:
    • Describe the characteristics of Mithila-style painting.
    • What did you first notice? What else stands out?
    • Describe the elements of art: lines, shapes, colors, and patterns. 
    • Describe how the artist organizes the composition and space.
    • How are human figures positioned?
    • How is empty space filled in each painting?
    • How are the borders of the paintings decorated?
  2. Have students read about an event in Krishna’s life from the Legend of Krishna Teacher Packet. They will then create their own painting using Mithila style characteristics.
  3. Inform students: Before you draw or paint your Mithila-style image, clear your mind and take a couple of deep breaths. Be calm and silent as your work on your image. Painting the image is sometimes an act of worship for the people of this region of India. Although your painting will not carry the same meaning for you, we should be respectful and paint the image while thinking good thoughts.
  4. Have students draw/paint their selected stories in the Mithila style, making sure they are aware of the characteristics we identified earlier. These paintings may look simple, but you might discover that they are rather difficult, but fun, to create.
  5. For more information on Mithila painting, visit the resource page for Painting is My Everything: Art from India's Mithila Region.

Common Core Standards:
RL 4.3: Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

Content Standards (California):
VPA/VA  4. 1.4: Describe the concept of proportion (in face, figure) as used in works of art.
VPA/VA 4.2.6: Use the interaction between positive and negative space expressively in a work of art.
VPA/VA 5.3.2: Identify and describe various fine, traditional, and folk arts from historical periods worldwide.
VPA/VA 6.1.2: Discuss works of art as to theme, genre, style, idea, and differences in media.
VPA/VA 6.5.3: Create artwork containing visual metaphors that express the traditions and myths of selected cultures.