Rangoli, one of the most beautiful and most pleasing art forms of India, is comprised of two words, 'rang' meaning 'color' and 'aavalli' meaning colored creepers' or 'row of colors'. Rangoli basically comprises of the art of making designs or patterns on the walls or the floor of the house, using finely ground white powder along with different colors. Numerous households in the Indian subcontinent make use of Rangoli designs for decorating the courtyard of their house.
Origin of Rangoli
There are a number of legends associated with the origin of the Rangoli art in India. The earliest mention in regard to this art form is found in Chitralakshana, the earliest Indian treatise on painting. It is said that the death of a high priest's son in a particular kingdom led to widespread despair. The people of that particular kingdom prayed to Lord Brahma, asking Him to bring the boy back to life. Moved by their prayers, Lord Brahma asked the king to paint a portrait of the boy on the floor. Thereafter, He breathed life into the portrait and the boy became alive again. It is believed that this was how the first Rangoli painting got made.
Another legend has it that one day, God, in one of His artistic spells, extracted juice from one of the mango trees to be used as paint. He then used the paint to draw the figure of a beautiful woman. It is said that the painting of the woman was so magnificent that it put the heavenly maidens to shame. Thereafter, Rangoli became a popular form of women self-portrait. Even Chola rulers have been known to make quite extensive use of Rangoli as floor paintings. It is also said that powder or sand is used for making Rangoli designs because the combination of the colors and the design fragility signifies the impermanence of life and maya.
Rangoli Designs & Patterns
The traditional form of Rangoli made use of designs and motifs based on nature, such as mango, creepers, flowers, swans, peacocks, etc. Even the colors in the traditional art form were extracted from natural dyes, like barks of trees, leaves, indigo, etc. However, the practice is not much in use now. These days, synthetic dyes have more or less replaced the natural dyes of the earlier times. The materials used in the Rangoli patterns of today give either a very flat appearance or a 3-D effect. Rangoli designs used presently include, geometrical patterns, the swastika, lotus, trident, fish, conch shell, creepers, leaves, trees, flowers, animals, etc.
Making of the Rangoli
Usually, the colors used for making Rangoli comprises of a coarse grained-powder base into which other colors are mixed. However, one can also make use of colored powder for impressive decorations. It is best to make Rangoli on a coarse base, such as sand, marble dust, saw dust, etc, as it provides a good grip and at the same time, one is able to sprinkle colors with greater control. The colors used are, by and large, very fine pigment powders like gulal or aabir.
One can also try colored powders used at home, like indigo and spices like rawa, turmeric, rice flour, wheat flour, etc. Whatever design you decide to draw, make sure that it is an unbroken line, with no gaps in between. It is said that a broken line gives an opportunity to the evil spirits to gain entry inside the home.
Rangoli and Diwali
Rangoli occupies a special place in the festival of Deepawali or Diwali. Since, the art form is an expression of warm hospitality, it is used by almost everyone to decorate his or her courtyard during the festival. It signifies that the people coming to the house are welcome inside.
Rangoli in Different States
Rangoli art is known by different names in different parts of the country, such as:
- Chowkpurana (Uttar Pradesh)
- Madana (Rajasthan)
- Muggu (Andhra Pradesh)
- Rangoli (Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra)
In the northern parts of India, Rangoli designs are made with traditional wet colors. On the other hand, in the southern parts of the country, Rangoli patterns drawn with the help of powder colors are more common.
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.
Aripana art form is a variation of the Rangoli, practiced in the Bihar. It usually comprises of line drawings, illustrated on the floor of the house. Aripana patterns are a part of each and every auspicious ceremony in Bihar, be it a puja, a vrata (fast) or a samskara (mundan, vivah, yajnopavita, etc). On the eve of a ceremony, Aripana designs are prepared in the courtyard, on the door front and a number of other places.
Kolam (Kerala and Tamil Nadu)
Kolam is the name given to the art of Rangoli in southern parts of the country, mainly the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Hindus residing in these parts make use of this art form on a large scale. The female members of the house usually draw Kolam designs in front of their homes, with the help of rice powder.
Aipan is one of the traditional forms of Rangoli, practiced in the state of Uttarakhand, now Uttaranchal. The art is associated with a great degree of social, cultural as well as religious significance. In Uttarakhand, Aipan designs are mainly drawn at places of worship, along with the main entry door and the front courtyard of the house.