Meet Padma Shri Dulari Devi: Indeed A Warrior of Change

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Padma Shri Dulari Devi: Padma Shri 2021 has indeed been conferred to “Warriors of Change “. Devi is among the few Dalit women artists who have created the path for the evolution of Dalit art, which is a representation of the critical issues of domination, discrimination and oppression.

Belonging to the Marginalised Mallah Community, Dulari Devi’s life journey has been truly inspirational. Her life is nothing less than an extraordinary anecdote of an Indian rural woman moving from extreme poverty and constant menial labour to establish herself as an accomplished and recognised painter. Padma Shri Dulari Devi

“These paintings are my life and I can’t stay a day without making them,” says a 50-year-old Mithila artist, Dulari Devi, with a spark and passion that makes us all the more curious to dive deeper into her story.

Her Story

Dulari Devi was once married and delivered a girl child who unfortunately couldn’t survive long. Her woes aggravated when her husband abandoned her and married again. She had to return to her parental village and ended up working as waged labour in the field. Sometimes sowing paddy in the rice fields to washing dishes in someone’s house Dulari represented millions of single unskilled women who find it difficult to make their ends meet.

 Karpuri Devi

Guided by a cue of fate she then got a chance to work as a maid in the house of a successful Mithila artist, Karpuri Devi. Once she asked Karpuri Devi to teaches her the art of making these beautiful paintings with intricate designs. To her surprise, Karpuri Devi agreed and in a blink, thus she became an Artist. That was the time she developed a great liking for Mithila paintings looking and capturing the view in her eyes and mind actively. She would admirably look up to a few women already engaged with making and selling Mithila paintings and ask them to teach her the same. She was consequently able to undergo a 6-month painting training under her. After that Dulari registered in a local painting institution run by Gauri Mishra with the help of Karpuri Devi and worked there for 16 years on the wage of Rs 200 per month.

Her Works

Dulari Devi is a well-known painter of traditional Ram- Sita paintings of Mithila region. However, catering to market preference she also draws a lot of contemporary themes and social issues like child marriage, AIDS awareness, foeticide, etc. In addition to her everyday, rural scenes, involving trees, fields, animals, etc. She is also a seasoned painter of Ganesh images. Padma Shri Dulari Devi

Her advice to the young generation

Devi says, though a lot of her time goes in making paintings as per her clients’ details majorly covering today’s rural plots, she never lets go of traditional designs. That’s also her advice to the young generation and budding Mithila painters in the region, she teaches and grooms, to not let go of traditional artwork focusing on Hindu Gods, weddings, kohwars, etc. Dulari because of having missed on education in the scarcity of resources and money regrets not able to use the Internet efficiently. She gets very happy upon checking Madhubani paintings on the net, whenever shown by kids around.

 Her work has taken her to places outside the hinterlands of Mithila region and they include Bangalore, Madras, Delhi, Patna, Gaya, etc. With the income she has made from selling these paintings, Dulari has already made a house and gotten a shop open for her brother where these paintings could be purchased. She gleefully chuckles about the money being good enough for her to sustain a comfortable life and buy appliances and furniture.

More than money, Dulari sees her paintings as her identity.

She believes her painting as a vocation has not only given her means to lead an independent life but it has also given her more courage to face the world and comfortably interact with people around. The monetary rewards of paintings have provided for the education of her brother’s kids and created steady employment for her brother also.

She trains upcoming young painters in the Mithila Art Institute and is impressed by the equipment and resources she finds with them helping them learn the art better and faster. Generous and loved by all, Dulari Devi doesn’t charge for painting walls in weddings of her own village. She charges for work only outside her community. Dulari has won many accolades and recognition for her decades of contribution towards Mithila Art.