Bihar’s Subhadra Devi has been awarded Padma Shri for her outstanding work in papier mache art.
In Bihar, papier mache has been practised since time immemorial. It is made using newspaper or waste paper, fuller's earth,
(fenugreek) powder, and adhesive made from water and wheat flour.
Today, she makes decorative items from dough prepared using soaked paper, fuller’s earth, and Fevicol. After shaping the dough, she dries and paints figures with vibrant colours.
Today, the octogenarian also trains others in the age-old craft. The artwork is practised by artisans in Bihar’s Patna, Saraikela, Hazaribagh, Murhu, Khunti (Ranchi), and Madhubani.
She is also known as the ‘mother of Madhubani papier mache art’. It is said that because of her, this artwork has gained recognition not only in India, but across the world.
The art is said to have been introduced to Kashmir by Sultan Zain-ul-Abadin, son of Emperor Sikander, in the 15th century, after his return from captivity in Samarkand.
The walls and ceilings of Srinagar’s Shah Hamdan mosque have been decorated using papier mache.