“Even while I was out herding cattle and doing farm work, I was always drawing idols and shapes on the ground,” she recalls.
Mandal would eventually have a family of her own, but she retained her passion for Mithila art. She now works at the Women’s Development Centre in Janakpur where she creates Mithila paintings on canvas.
“It took many years for me to convince family and friends that I was doing the right thing,” she explains.
Mandal’s four brothers went to school, but as the sole daughter in the family, she was excluded. Having learnt to be independent from a young age and now with income of her own, she supports her own daughter’s education.
“The income and respect I earned through my artwork gave me the courage and the means to support my daughter,” she says. “This is the greatest achievement of my life.”
Her days of drawing shapes in the mud long behind her, Mandal’s art now stays with traditional motifs but is almost impressionistic. Her work has been exhibited in the US and Hong Kong, and accent the walls of many homes across the world.
The ancient Mithila kingdom spanned territory that now lies on both sides of the India Nepal border. Recently, there has been a renaissance of Mithila literature, dance forms and art.