Rambharos Jha grew up on the banks of the legendary river Ganga where he developed a fascination for water and water life. Born in the culture-rich district of Darbanga in the Mithila region, he moved to Madhubani as a child when his father started work in a government supported art and culture project. Since then he has followed his own creative impulses, developing the tradition in his own distinctive style. Waterlife is his first book.
Tell me about yourself. What is your background?
I am a person who loves nature, its myriad of colors, moods and diversity of life. Being born in Mithila, a place having thousands of pond, lakes and rivers, such an exuberance of life, of water creatures in nature charmed me very deeply as a child. Later on when I started to learn, practice and paint the tradition of the art of Mithila, that childhood attraction towards nature featured prominently in my art.
Give me a brief history of Mithila art.
Mithila has been a traditional society. Since time immemorial women have painted decorative gods, goddesses and icons of fertility on the walls of their homes during festivals and other auspicious occasions. In the late 1960s this art traveled from walls to paper. Legendary women artists like Sita Devi and Ganga Devi gave this highly aesthetic artistic tradition a great beginning in the world of art. Later on many other female and male artists of brilliant creative sensibilities painted a huge body of work depicting culture, ritualistic motifs, festivals, life occasions and natural scenes, etc. Now a number of talented young artists like Amrita Jha, Manisha Jha, Shalini Kumari and Nibha Jha are taking forward the tradition of the art of Mithila. Of course there is a lot of innovations and experimentations in their paintings but the basic character of the Mithila tradition remains the same.
How did you become interested in this style of art? How old were you?
My father had long been associated with a Non-Governmental organization dedicated to promote the artistic traditions of Mithila in Madhubani. Since early childhood I had a chance to look at the colorful and intricate paintings of the legendary women artists very closely. I would spend hours watching them work. Gradually, this closeness developed a strong interest within me to paint. At that time I was five or six years old.
Are there any artists who’ve inspired you? If so, who?
Two women artists Sita Devi and Ganga Devi of the Mithila artistic tradition inspired me very much. The extraordinarily folk sense of color of Sita Devi and intricate line style of Ganga Devi give one a basic understanding that Mithila art is all about rich colors and fine lines.
Explain what a typical day is like. What are some of the things that inspire you?
I read and paint almost daily. Most often start my day reading fiction, either in English or Hindi. Later on, work on my canvas. In the evening, I take my only child to the park to play Badminton or Football. He is very particular about his routine and forces me to go with him as soon as the clock shows that it’s 6PM. Things from regular life inspires me. Bulls standing in the middle of the road, milkman milking the buffalo, municipality workers taking the garbage away, etc. I always look for colors out of them.
I love Waterlife. I especially loved the Panchatantra inspirational story behind your painting titled “The Trick”. Are you working on anything new?
Thank you so much! Currently I am not in to any book project. I am working on some of my new paintings.
What are some books that you’ve read and would like to recommend?
I have finished two books in a row: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Now reading India: A Million Mutinies Now by V.S. Naipaul. I would recommend reading Metamorphosis. It’s an amazing book.
Do you exhibit your art work? If so, where can they be viewed?
My art works are not exhibited properly and adequately. Apart from some group exhibitions, a major portion of my art works are still not available for a larger audience.
Finally, in keeping with the site’s theme, what is your favorite dish?
My favorite dish is fish curry & rice. In Mithila most of the people love to eat fish. Fish is also the traditional symbol of Mithila.
The above listed artworks are available for purchase. For information, please contact the artist directly.
Folk Art No Longer: The Transformations of Mithila Painting (mithilapainting.org)
- Mithila Paintings: Past, Present and Future (ignca.nic.in)
- Mithila Painting: The Dalit Intervention (mithilapainting.org)