G20's Hidden Gem: The Artistry and Optimism of a Madhubani maestro

Lekshmi Priya S S, Assistant Director (IIS), Ministry of information and Broadcasting
Lekshmi Priya S S, Assistant Director (IIS), Ministry of information and Broadcasting

10 Sep, 2023

Amidst the bustling corridors of the G20 summit venue in New Delhi, we discovered an unsung hero of art and culture, Mrs. Shanti Devi, a nearly 60-year-old lady hailing from the heartland of Bihar, Mithila. Her name may not be familiar to many, but her exquisite Madhubani paintings have brought her not just acclaim but also the coveted National Award for her extraordinary craftsmanship.



With a warm smile and an air of simplicity that instantly captivates, this unassuming artisan stands as a testament to the power of art to transcend boundaries. Her eyes sparkle with a quiet wisdom that comes from years of devotion to her craft.

Madhubani painting, a Geographical Indication (GI) tagged art form that originated in the Mithila region of Bihar. It is one of the oldest and most vibrant art forms in India, with a history that can be traced back over 2,500 years.

It is renowned worldwide for its intricate detailing and vibrant colors. Artists use only natural pigments and brushes made from twigs to create these visually captivating and culturally significant artworks. It takes an incredible amount of patience and dedication to create a single piece of medium-sized artwork, and this talented artist dedicates 7-10 days to each masterpiece.

Before the pandemic struck, Shanti Devi ji would sell her creations for a decent sum of Rs 5000 each, providing a sustainable livelihood for her family. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a downturn in her sales, pushing her into financial uncertainty. Yet, as we spoke to her, her optimism and enthusiasm were infectious.

With eyes brimming with pride, she shared her latest creation, a magnificent Madhubani artwork depicting the success of Chandrayaan-3, India's lunar exploration mission. "This is now my most prized possession. I will not sell it, but keep it in my home until I get an opportunity to present it to Modiji", she says. In her art, she not only preserves her cultural heritage but also celebrates India's achievements on the global stage.




Cultivating her craft with unwavering dedication, this humble artisan carries a profound sense of purpose. Through her paintings, she has become an ambassador for her village, her state, and her country. "I will do my part as much as I can to preserve this artform, and I hope that my children and grandchildren will carry on this tradition", she says.

As we watched her carefully crafting each stroke of her brush, it became evident that her work is more than just a means of livelihood. It's a labor of love, a dedication to preserving the rich heritage of Madhubani art, and a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity.

Her presence at an event as significant as the G20 summit is a testament to the enduring power of art to connect people and cultures. In her simplicity, she reminds us that even in the grandeur of international politics and diplomacy, the heart and soul of a nation can be found in the hands of its artists.

As the world leaders gather in New Delhi to discuss critical global issues, this Madhubani maestro quietly but profoundly contributes to the cultural tapestry that makes India so unique. Her story is not just about art but about the indomitable spirit of those who continue to paint their dreams against all odds.


Lekshmi Priya S S, Assistant Director (IIS), Ministry of information and Broadcasting