Indian Railways takes mural route in image makeover

Madhubani paintings to help brighten paint scheme for railway coaches while also providing job opportunities for traditional artists

Patna: It seems to be makeover time for the 165-year-old Indian Railways, the fourth largest railway network in the world by size. After transforming a railway station once branded the dirtiest in the country, the railways has decided to use vibrant Mithila art, also known as Madhubani paintings, to give a fresh look to railway coaches hitherto painted in dull, dark blue shades.

In a fresh start, the coaches of the Bihar Sampark Kranti Express were painted with exquisite Mithila art. Around 50 artists worked day and night for a full month to give an attractive look to the train running between Delhi and Darbhanga, a northern Bihar town known as the cultural capital of the state.

Authorities said that nine coaches of the train have been painted with the traditional art for a start but, in due course, all its 24 coaches will be given a tasteful look. As per the report, the cost for the artistic makeover added up to Rs100,000 per coach.

Officials said the initiative will not only lend an attractive look to the train but will also promote the fading traditional Mithila art on a larger canvas, which in turn will give more employment to hundreds of artists associated with the art.

“The idea will not only promote the traditional Mithila art but also help preserve our old heritage,” Federal railway minister Piyush Goyal said.

A senior railway official said they had painted this train on an experimental basis but more trains would get their makeover in days to come if they got encouraging results. “It’s a journey of traditional art from heart of Mithila to national heart [Delhi],” a divisional railway manager R.K. Jain said, adding they could consider adding soothing coat of paint to more trains if the experiment evoked good response from passengers.

Madhubani art originates and is practised in the Mithila region of Bihar. Painting of this style is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, using natural dyes and pigments.

The subject of the paintings may differ, but usually highlight rituals for festivals, religious ceremonies, and the like. The images are either of people offering prayers or plants and animals. Traditionally, the colours used for Madhubani paintings are usually derived from plants and other natural sources. The colours schemes used are often bright and very visually appealing.

Last year, the railways had got the Madhubani station — identified as India’s dirtiest stations in a survey conducted by the Indian railways — transformed with the same Madhubani art. Under part of the initiative, the authorities involved 100 local artists who ultimately transformed the once “dirtiest” railway station into an “art junction” simply with their brush and paints.

The artists across all age groups and sex painted the walls of the station spread over 7,000 square feet area with vibrant colours. But what was more inspiring, they did it all free of cost — all this to ensure their home railway station is recognised as the “loveliest” station on the world map.

The artists depicted various themes from Hindu mythology on the walls of the station besides scenes from the typical village market, the rural life of Mithila and prominent local festivals. The splash of colour has brought alive the social-cultural milieu of Mithila on the walls of the railway station.

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