In a traditional household, the lady of the house starts her daily chores by purifying herself, drawing some Rangoli lines in front of the house, pooja room and the Brindavana. Her regular routine begins after this ritual. With this, her entire day remains fresh and lively. Although modernization is seeping in to our culture, I am really happy to see many a households still following this traditional art.
A design created by hand, allowing the coarsely ground rice flour (nowadays, powder of a special soft white stone) to flow freely is called Rangoli. The word ‘Rangoli’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Rangavalli’ (an array of colors). Rangoli is an art, which precedes sculpture and painting. In India, Rangoli is both an auspicious and a preliminary necessity in any religious ritual.
In ancient India, Rangoli was drawn to decorate the entrance of homes, a floor-painting which provided a warm and colourful welcome to visitors. In Indian cultures, all guests and visitors occupy a very special place, and a Rangoli is an expression of this warm hospitality.
According to a legend recorded in Chitra Lakshana, the earliest treatise on Indian painting, a king and his kingdom were steeped in sorrow at the death of the high priest’s son. Everybody prayed to Lord Brahma, who moved by the prayers, asked the king to paint a portrait of the boy on the floor so that he could breathe life into it. And with that the art of floor painting came to life. And that is how rice, flour and flowers were transformed into picturesque offerings to God in the form of floor painting.
In ancient times, Rangolis were actually decorations made on the entrances and walls of houses to brighten up and add color to occasions being celebrated, like weddings, births and significant religious days (signifying a warm welcome for visitors).
The designs would be simple and geometrical but could invoke symbolic forms. Oil lamps (Hanathe/ Diya) would be placed in the Rangoli to give it yet another dimension.
Rangoli designs are usually geometrical shapes that are drawn not only in front of houses but also in pooja rooms and during auspicious and religious occasions. A grid of dots is first created on the ground and deft fingers weave lines and curves of magic through this gridwork to form exquisite designs. These dots are said to symbolize the hurdles that we face on this journey called life. Typical Rangoli designs are single closed winding lines intricately woven around a grid of dots.
Rangolis can be vivid, three-dimensional art complete with shadings or they can be the traditional plain, yet as beautiful as, two-dimensional designs. The coloured powder is usually applied ‘freehand’ by letting it run from the gap formed by pinching the thumb and the forefinger.
Early mornings in Karnataka and other Southern states (also in parts of North India) will see the threshold being cleaned and adorned with a Rangoli pattern. Rangoli is usually drawn with coarsely ground rice flour and is done with swift deft strokes. As legend goes, the rice flour is also food for ants. Red brick powder and coloured powder are used to enhance Rangoli.
During the Margashira Maasa and on special occasions, Rangoli take on a festive note. Rangoli during the festival of Sankranthi is generously dotted with images of the overflowing Huggi pot signifying prosperity. During Deepavali, Rangoli is drawn showing several Hanathes.
Thus, reflecting regional beliefs and aesthetics based on a common spiritual plane, the art of floor painting is one which has survived all influences and retained and transmitted the spirit of Indian life.
If you are not very artistically inclined but yet want to adorn your house with traditional Rangoli designs, worry not! There are several stencils and tin rollers with intricate designs drilled on to their surface. These can be used to create Rangoli designs easily and quickly. Today you can also find Rangoli stickers that you can stick on to your doorstep.
Starting today, exquisite Rangoli designs will be regularly posted on Rambling with Bellur, thanks to Mrs. Srilakshmi Suresh.