Color of India

Ancient Folk Arts of Mithila, Madhubani region of Bihar


Sunanda Sahay grew up in Darbhanga, the heart of the Madhubani region in northern India. The region, part of Mithila, lies near the border of India and Nepal and carries a rich pastel of cultural legacy in art and literature. Artistic interests led Sunanda to seek out practitioners of the art from local villages and learn directly from them.

Despite royal patronage, Madhubani paintings have retained their simplistic folk origins. It is a living art and visitors can see lovely murals on the clay walls of Madhubani village homes even today. Sunanda’s works have stayed true to the traditional themes of mythology and social customs, and her style has not deviated from the dense, arching, and brightly colored strokes characteristic of the art. Though a few male artists have received renown in recent years in this art, Madhubani paintings have customarily been practiced exclusively by women.

Sunanda has been painting for over a decade and has held exhibitions and workshops at the Peabody Essex Museum (2007, 2009, 2010), Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), the National Heritage Museum(with Vision-Aid), Boston Childrens’ Museum, Danforth Museum, and the Massachusetts College of Art. She has also held exhibitions and interactive workshops at public schools and libraries in several nearby towns, including Acton, Lexington, Newton, Lincoln, Weston, Wellesley, and Cambridge, and designed covers for children’s magazines. She has addressed students at Pine Manor college, Wellesley college and other community places.

Sunanda has been teaching students of all age groups(kids to adults) for last few years. many of them have received awards, accolades and recognition everywhere. All her students have been exhibiting their artworks extensively from MFA to many prestigious venues. Sunanda has twice received the prestigious apprenticeship award from MCC to train her students who can carry the legacy.

The paintings have received widespread attention and acclaim, including several juried show selections, and awards by the Fitchburg Art Museum(2009) and the Massachusetts Cultural Council (2010). She has been invited by Mass General Hospital to exhibit her art for emotional healing of the cancer patients. More information is available at, and Sunanda can be reached at


After earning a Masters in English literature and briefly working with the UN Mission in Mozambique, Sunanda now lives in Acton, MA, with her two sons and husband. She retains her lifelong association with Mithila where her parents are practicing physicians. She continues to revisit Madhubani periodically to spend weeks with the local artists, refining her techniques and rediscovering the endless assortment of themes. Additionally, she is now studying other folk and tribal art forms like Warli (Maharastra), Kalmakari (Andhra), Gond (MP), Patchitra (Orissa) and Phad (Rajasthan). She popularizes the arts via exhibitions, workshops and lectures in the New England area, details of which can be seen on the Events Page.

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