Alpana, the form of Rangoli practiced in Bengal, is a natural representation of the artistic sensibility of the people. Practiced usually by the womenfolk of the state, the art form represents an amalgamation of the past experience as well as the contemporary designs. Even though the basic designs are more or less same, new forms and new colors are being tried on a large scale. The changing moods of the seasons are also very much reflected in the Alpana designs of India. The patterns are made with the help of a small piece of cloth drenched in a blend of powdered rice.
Making of Alpana patterns is a part of the rituals in the numerous
vratas (fasts) kept by the Hindu women of Bengal. They beautify the
whole house and paint the floor with Alpana art, drawing designs passed
on from one generation to the other. Bengalis also make use of the
Circular Alpana as a holy pedestal while worshipping a deity, especially
at the time of Lakshmi Puja. The basis of the word 'Alpana' has two
different versions. As per one version, it originated from the Sanskrit
word 'Alimpana', meaning 'to plaster with' or 'to coat with'. The other
version traces its roots to the word 'Alipana', meaning the art of
making ails or embankments.
The origin of the Alpana art form is very difficult to trace. Some
authorities believe that the vratas with which Alpana is associated can
be traced to pre-Aryan times. The ascetics living in the country before
the Aryans are said to have passed on this art form to the future
generations. One can also find detailed mention of Alpana paintings in
the later works like Kajalrekha. All the ritualistic and traditional
folk arts of Bengal, including Alpana, are believed to have been used by
the agricultural communities of the region for driving out evil spirits.
The art form of Alpana has been used since ages for religious and
ceremonial purposes and is usually done on the floor.
Making of Alpana
Alpana designs are drawn with the help of rice-powder, diluted rice
paste, powdered colors (produced from dried leaves), charcoal, burnt
earth, etc. Materials like colored chalk, vermilion, flower petals,
grains, etc, are also used to decorate the designs. The motifs usually
comprise of sun, ladder, leg of goddess Lakshmi, owl, fish, betel, rice
stem, lotus, plough, sindur box, etc. Presently, Alpana patterns seem to
be influenced by Santiniketani style of art.