Satya Narayan Lal Karn: the shining beacon of folk art

Updated: Jul 15

Nature filled all of our lives with numerous colors. Everywhere we go, we see the vivid spirit of existence.

Satya Narayan Lal Karn

To use one's life to give life to these colors through paintings cannot be done by many. And one such person who used all of nature's colors to make lively paintings was Satya Narayan Lal Karn.

Mithila paintings

On December 4, 1952, Satya Narayan was born in Jitwarpur, Madhubani District, Bihar.

The art of Madhubani painting was taught to him by his mother, Padmashree Smt. Jagdamba Devi at a very tender age of nine.


Since then, he has been using this to please the eyes and win the viewer's heart.

Satya was a fourth-generation artist, born into a family of Madhubani painters.



His foster mother, Jagdamba Devi, who was not only a Madhubani painter but also the first artist to earn a National Award in Mithila paintings and a Padma Shri awardee, played an essential part in his enthusiasm and training.


Satya Narayan Lal Karn

Madbhuani's works mostly incorporate natural colors derived from flowers, vegetables, and leaves. Satya once stated that he would never 'take life' to make art; therefore, he would only use flowers or leaves that had already fallen from the bush or flowers that were leftover at the temple.



He would sometimes receive wilting flowers from a florist shop that would be thrown out after a long day. Before adding any ink or dye, the paper he used was treated with cow dung to keep the colors fast and robust.


Cow dung was also combined with charcoal to create the black outline. He said, "To create a Mithila painting, you must be in an extremely peaceful frame of mind – once the black outline is created with a bamboo stick, there is no turning back."


Satya Narayan Lal Karn was one of the country's most accomplished Mithila painters.

He was the head of the creative art department and the teacher's training program in New Delhi.

He had taken part in several exhibitions and workshops across many countries like India, Australia, France, Bulgaria, and the United States.


In 2011, he was asked to offer various seminars at the India Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.


In 2000, he received the Kamladevi Chattopadhyay Memorial Award, and in 2001, he and his wife jointly won the National Award.


received the Kamladevi Chattopadhyay Memorial Award,

Satyanarayan Lal Karn and his wife Moti Karn are National Award-winning Mithila artists.

The couple said in an interview, "We don't use chemical paints and synthetic brushes.

We prepare the paint ourselves by grinding flowers and leaves and use thin broomsticks as brushes.


Satya Narayan Lal Karn

We never buy flowers and leaves or pluck them.

We pick them when they have fallen naturally," says Moti.

"We are not slaves of the color. The color is our slave. We draw whatever comes to our mind," added Satyanarayan.


Satya Narayan Lal Karn has been a founding member of Paramparik Karigar since its inception in 1996.

Satya Narayan Lal Karn and his wife Moti Karn were active members of Paramparik Karigar after meeting Roshan Kalapesi at an exhibition at the Lalit Kala Academy in New Delhi, who inspired and mentored them throughout the years.


Madhubani is a unique genre of folk art since it consists of diverse styles created in Bihar's villages, where each of these artists established their own "schools" of family members and other locals.

Not only did it begin as primarily female art, but it grew in popularity as a result of their efforts.