FOLK HERITAGE

“RANGOLI” – A COLORFUL TALE FROM INDIA

A CALL FOR CELEBRATION

Deepawali is coming, and I am searching all over the internet for new Rangoli designs which I could make at my home this diwali. I love making Rangolis ever since I was a child. The patterns, colors and the festive vibes which came along with a beautiful Rangoli, is matchless. Rangolis or chauk-poorna is a part of hindu household during poojas, rituals, auspicious ceremonies, festivals and even daily. But, it’s an essential part of Diwali celebration in India.

Indians are well familiar with Rangolis…. But I am sure there is lot more to know about this colorful folk art. Let’s find out-

Colorful Kolam

THE ART OF RANGOLI

Rangoli is an art created on the floor or a tabletops or thalis using materials such as powdered limestone, dry rice flour, wheat flour, coloured sand, quartz powder, flower petals etc. The designs may be as simple as religious symbols like Swastik or OM or Ashtdal-Kamal ar as complicated as it can. Rangolis are essential part of Hindu festivals like  Diwali ,  Onam,  Pongal,  Sankranthi. This art has evolved to a greater degree with time but undoubtedly mark its presence to every Indian house and passed on to generations.

Different cultures and states have different names for Rangoli. In some houses, especially in South India, every morning the ladies clean their house entrance and draw Rangoli ( Kolam in South India) at the front door for inviting prosperity, happiness and Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) to their homes. Oil lamps (diyas) are often placed on or nearby the rangoli as rangolis are auspicious for Hindus and considered as a religious floor art.

BELIEF BEHIND RANGOLI MAKING

Yes, it’s for decoration. But Rangoli serves a greater purpose than just decoration. Traditional Rangoli is made from calcite and limestone or cereal powders. The limestone helps in preventing insects from entering the household, and the cereal powders serves as a food for insects and other microbes.

The contrasting colours and vibrant designs invokes the feeling of warmth and positivity during festivals, auspicious observances, marriage celebrations and other gatherings. Rangolis (chauk-poorna / madna) are also drawn at home temples or beneath the chawki, welcoming gods to have an asan during pooja, particularly sthapana.

RANGOLI HAS MANY NAMES

Rangoli is a word derived from sanskrit word “Rangavalli“. “Rang” means color and “valli” means rows. Thus “rangavalli” means rows of colors. The art has different names in different cultures and states like:

  • RANGOLI – Karnataka
  • MUGGU – Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
  • KOLAM – Tamil Nadu
  • ALPANA – West Bengal
  • MURUJA – Odisha
  • MANDALA/ MANDANA – Rajasthan
  • CHAUKPURNA – Chattisgarh
  • CHAUKPOOJAN – Uttarpradesh
  • AIPAN – Utarakhand
  • Rangoli/ Bharti – Maharashtra
  • HARIPAN/ ARIPAN – Bihar
  • CHAUKPOORNA – Punjab
  • SAATHIYA/ GAHULI – Gujarat
  • POOKKALAM – Kerala

RANGOLI IN HINDU MYTHOLOGY

Rangoli creation is found mentioned in Hindu mythology. For example in Ramayana, Rangoli is discussed at Sita’s wedding pavilion. Another episode from epic Ramayana tells the people of Ayodhya, an ancient city in India, made beautiful Rangoli patterns to welcome Lord Rama on his victory and return from exile of fourteen years.

One of the story is about that Andaal  (human incarnation of Goddess Bhudevi), who worshipped Lord Krishna and was married to him in the month of Margazhi. During this month, unmarried girls get up before dawn and draw a rangoli to welcome the God Krishna.

In South India, the art of Rangoli gained major significance during the era of the Chola Rulers.

According to a legend narrated in Chitra Lakshana (the earliest book on Indian paintings), once a king and his kingdom suffered a great sorrow at the death of the high priest’s son. Everybody prayed to Lord Brahma for priest son’s life. Brahma answered and asked the king to paint a portrait of the boy on the floor so that he could put life into it. That was the first floor painting which came to life. Rice flour and flowers used were then considered as an offerings to God in the form of floor painting.

Pookalam- floral rangoli. The Thumbapoo flower is widely used in creating Onam flower designs.That’s because people consider it to be the favorite flower of Lord Shiva, and also King Mahabali was a devotee of the Lord.

There are several ways to make a beautiful rangoli. It can be dotted or free hand. In dotted rangoli, the dots are made in symmetrical patterns in specific numbers and joined to create a pattern, often geometric. In free hand, on the contrary, the maker has a free will to draw anything of his/her choice. First the outline is drawn and then the pattern are filled in with colour. Rangoli patterns are very colourful and considered as a sign of warm welcome.

The auspicious symbols like swastik are often incorporated in the design. Popular patterns in rangoli are the lotus flower (kamal-dal) and its leaves, mango, fish, different kind of birds like parrots, swans, and peacocks, Diya also called Deep, Ganesha, Lakshmi, flowers or birds of India. The patterns may include the face of Hindu deities related to specific occasion. These days abstract designs are also popular in Rangoli.

Many of these motifs are traditional and are passed on through the generations of a family. Rangoli is a representation of Indian traditions. The diverse patterns and contrasting colors symbolize the diversity of India’s rich cultural heritage.

BACKGROUND FOR A PERFECT RANGOLI

The background of rangoli should be clean and in ancient days especially in rural India, the floor was coated with cow-dung as a preparation for Rangoli. It is called ” Gobar se Leepna“. Modern houses can’t perform “Leepan“, and simply uses clean floor for Rangoli making. I personally use big “Thali” called “paraat” for making Rangoli as it can be moved on a daily basis during dusting and cleaning and can be kept for a month. People also make rangoli on water by introducing oily layer on water. It’s called floating rangoli.

Rangoli can be found in middle of a courtyard, around Tulsana (Sacred Tulsi planter), home entrance, on a Dehri or Dehleez. Corners of a room, outside of a temple and beneath the asan (God’s seat).

Rangoli made using stencil on Diwali festival celebration.Photo by Jyoti Singh on Unsplash

MATERIALS REQUIRED FOR RANGOLI

The materials are simple and easily found everywhere. The major ingredients used to make rangoli are:

  • Dried rice flour
  • Wheat flour (especially during pooja)
  • Dried powder made from leaves, colour, charcoal, burned soil, sawdust, and similar substances.
  • Coloured powdered quartz
  • Turmeric (pasupu)
  • Vermillion (sindooram)
  • Coloured sand
  • Red brick powder
  • Flowers
  • Whole grains.
Photo by Rizki Oceano on Unsplash

Rice flour and powdered quartz are the most common materials used in Rangoli designs however, modern rangoli colors are sometimes the chemical ones. These days stencils and ready-made rangoli stickers are easily available in markets which makes it more convenient for people with shortage of time to have rangoli in their homes without any mess. Rangolis are very popular and are incorporated as a means of decor in commercial spaces like five star hotels, malls, airports etc.

MY “THALI” RANGOLIS

Though the designs are inspired from internet and other sources (I don’t even remember), but it is all made by me for Diwali using colored powdered quartz that is easily available in market.

So, this Diwali make sure you have a beautiful Rangoli flaunting your house floor, welcoming Goddess Lakshmi with complete excitement and traditional decor. Happy Diwali to all my readers.

RELATED: KOLAM- ART FROM SOUTH INDIA

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