Derived from the Sanskrit word rangavalli, rangoli is an art form that has its origin in India. It’s an artistic expression, either in simple or intricate patterns, made using various vibrant colours drawn by hand. These colourful patterns are generally made on the floor, mostly at the entrance of houses or of various religious places of worship. While in a few cultures it’s drawn regularly, in other, it’s specifically done during important occasions, such as weddings, birth of a newborn, or religious festivals such as Diwali, Onam, etc. The various innovative and stunning designs make the whole creation look very beautiful!
But the actual purpose of a rangoli goes way beyond just mere attraction and decoration – it’s considered the bringer of positivity, prosperity, good fortune and divine blessings. As per the folklores of the Hindu religion, it is considered very auspicious to make a rangoli during religious ceremonies and festivals. Many also believe that it has several spiritual benefits, too. Another belief is that with the change of colour and design, the vibrations of the rangoli also change – they attract and transmit good energies!
A few households have special rangoli designs that are passed down many generations. Many designs even have a legend or a folktale attached to it. In the actual sense, a rangoli keeps the family traditions alive, and at the same time, also serves as a very unique art form.
An age-old tradition of decorating rangoli includes the use of cow dung, because it helps repel insects and poisonous creatures. It’s mixed with water in a thick consistency and evenly spread across mud floors. Back in the day, rangoli didn’t consist of various chemical filled colours. Instead, rice flour was used for drawing the designs. The purpose of using rice flour was to prevent ants from entering the house, as they’d consume the flour and stay out. They wouldn’t come in searching for food!
Since cow dung is also considered very sacred and auspicious, balls of cow dung are used to decorate the traditional rangoli that are designed to bring in prosperity and good luck. Cow dung water is sprinkled on the floor before the design is drawn. Kumkuma (red vermilion powder) and pasupu (turmeric powder) are also used along with various grains and flowers to complete the design.
Rangoli is known by various names in various parts of India – muggu in Andhra Pradesh, aripana in Bihar, kalam in Kerala, chowkpurana in Chhattisgarh, murja in Odisha, mandana in Rajasthan, kolam or golam in Tamil Nadu, chowkpujan in Uttar Pradesh, and alpana in West Bengal.
It can be made using various materials such as cow dung (a very ancient traditional practice of making rangoli), powdered rice, flower petals, chalk powder, coloured sand, and many other things. While most designs consist of simple and not-so-complicated patterns, some designs are very intricate and require an eye for detail. They’re also very time consuming! Some striking patterns include various gods and goddess drawn during festive days, which help mark the significance of that festival.
Even today, even though a lot of years have passed and many customs and rituals, have changed, one tradition that remains intact is that tradition of making a rangoli. Usually drawn by the women of the house, it is still very much a part of the Hindu culture. Today, there are many stencils available in various shapes and patterns such as the lotus flower, gods, goddesses, religious symbols, and many more other designs. One rangoli design that continues to catch the attention of many is the ‘sacred feet’, which are drawn leading up to the entrance of a house or temple. They are drawn to represent the feet of God, who is considered to be coming into the house for blessing the people with tons of happiness, good energies, and prosperity.
At the end of it, what matters is the stunning combination of colours and perfect designs that are made with so much love. The beauty of a rangoli lies in the way you see it!