Mrs. Gauri Mishra
M.A.(Mithila University, Darbhanga),
Vidyaratna (Doctorate Equivalent),
W.I.M., Washington D.C.,
W.A.E., Leister, London,
[Political Science, English Poetry]
Dip. in Journalism, Midland, London,
Research Aide to Fulbright Scholar Anthropologist Dr. Raymond Lee Owens,
Research Aide to Heidelberg Scholar Anthropologist Dr. Erika (Moser) Shmidt,
Assistant Director, Art Film "Munni" (World Art Film Inc Project),
Assistant Director, "Six Great Artisans of Mithila",
Consultant, Film on Shanti Devi, an artist of downtrodden class (UNICEF Project),
Pioneer of Women's Movement in Mithila for economic independence and status,
Promoter, Mastercraftsmen's Association of Mithila, Jitwarpur (Madhubani),
Founder, SEWA Mithila, Madhubani, Bihar (An International Organization for women through Art and Craft),
Patron and Mother Person for Short Stay Home, Abhayashram (Fearless Cottage) for distressed women, Madhubani,
Former President, SEWA Bharat,
Member, National Award Selection Committee
Life Member, All India Women's Conference,
Organizer of First Ever World Market for Mithila Painting,
Initiator of the participation of Mithila Painting in Denver Museum Show,
Supporter, Berkeley Museum Exhibition,
Invitee Visitor, Heidelberg Varsity Germany sponsored Market Meet,
Winner of Governors Award for Super Social Service,
Cited with Taamrapatra(Copper Plate Honour) with recognition.
Mrs. Gauri Mishra, popularly called 'Maaji' (The reverend Mother) was born on 5th February 1933 on Basant Panchmi in a well off Brahmin Family. She was the fourth daughter of Late Shri Ramanugrah Jha (a first class first in History, a Gold Medalist and a member of British Government). She got married to Dr. (Prof)Bhavanath Mishra (HOD Medicine, Darbhanga College Medical Hospital, F.R.C.P. Edinburgh, UK) at the young age of 13. She spent few years of her marital life abroad in Edinburgh while her husband was pursing his M.R.CP and working as Registrar at Isolation Hospital, Leister. Back in India, She worked as a Lecturer at M.R.M. college, Darbhanga.At the young age of 40, she was introduced to the reality of the rural people of Mithila by the German Scholar and Anthropologist, (Late) Dr.Erika (Moser) Shmidt . With Erika, she met with the poorest families of Mithila and mingled with them in their own setting. From this point in time, her love and affection for the rural poor, especially women grew. She began to feel guilty for the poverty and degradation among her own people of Mithila.Thus, even while she taught at the college, her mind was on the sorrows of her rural people. Thanks to the opportunity given by Erika, she started to ferry medicines to cope with the ailments of the villagers and started living in huts, and eventually became the 'Maaji' of the area. Mrs. Mishra, living in rural areas, became aware of the poor women artists by the middlemen. A painting of some of the major artists, like those of Ganga Devi, which was bought for Rs 3 fetched Rs 345 in Bombay and Delhi. Mrs. Mishra, infact put the Rs 345 price tag on her paintings at an exhibition and all of them got sold almost instantly.
In 1974, Dr Satish Chandra of All India Handicrafts Board suggested Gauri should form and Artists' Association which could promote the cause by supporting raw materials for the paintings and at the same time perform the critical function of marketing those paintings.
In 1976, Fulbright Scholar Anthropologist Scholar, Dr Raymond Lee Owens came to Madhubani to study folk art and Mithila Culture. Mrs. Mishra had by then registered as a research scholar with the Mithila University, Darbhanga. Her topic was 'Social, cultural and literary background of Mithila Paintings'. Raymond insisted Mrs. Mishra to help him complete his study of the regional art and culture. Despite Mrs. Mishra not keeping well those days, joined Raymond on his strong insistence as Mrs. Mishra was one of the few, and the only one in the area, who not only knew Maithili but also the Folk art of the region; she could also provide and explanation of each painting, its life cycle, year cycle, various kinds of Mithila paintings, their origin as per Shashtras, tantra paintings, view of other historians and her own conclusions. In March, 1977, she began working with the American scholar.
Six month later she discussed Dr. Satish Chandra's suggestions. Raymond was enthusiatic and gave money for the association out of his own pocket. Erika contributed to this cause by providing the land that she had bought in Jitwarpur. By November 1977, Mastercraftmen's Association for Mithila was formed and registered as a society in Patna. Few years later, Gauri Maa formed SEWA(Self Employed Women's Association) Mithila , an organization dedicated to the cause of empowerment and upliftment of rural women. There has been no looking back since then and Gauri Maa has helped awaken and empower thousands of women in these rural areas of Bihar by making them self-dependent. Promoting and commercializing Mithila Painting (Madhubani Painting) was a tool to to empower these oppressed section of society and to protect them from the evils of society.
The testimonial of the world to Maaji's service to mankind can be read in the TESTIMONIAL section of the website.