Rangoli: The art of floor painting

May 9, 2007

Rangoli: Srilakshmi Suresh 

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.

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27 Responses to “Rangoli: The art of floor painting”

  1. pArijAta Says:

    Bellur avare,
    Nice Article.
    In our house, on special occasions, rice is soaked and ground, and rangoli designs are made using the ground paste. Red soil (ಕೆಮ್ಮಣ್ಣು) is also used, to further beautify the rangoli. The end result is very pleasing to the eye, and cannot be removed easily, unlike the white-stone powder.
    Once, we had drawn the rangoli using this paste during the night, because we had to start very early the next day. By the time we woke up in the morning, most of the rangoli was missing. Some neighborhood ants had found food!

  2. decemberstud Says:


    Nice write up…..

    During Ugadi this year, entire Saraswathipuram area in Mysore had a Rangoli competition. You can imagine how the area looked.

    But sadly, off late, it’s coming down considerably…and we see tons of “painted permanent” Rangolis…yikes !

  3. praneshachar Says:

    dinakkondu Rangoli fantasitic bellur it is great you are bringing our slowly fading our arts/ things to back to life. Still Rangoli competitions are hld and we have got many very good male rangloli makers in our factory and elsewhere too. Andhra maharashtra too it is popular though people at north are not making rangolis

  4. […] Posts Rangoli: The art of floor paintingSri Purandara Dasa (1494-1564)Remember some of those ’80s ads?Photos from Sri KS Narayanacharya’s […]

  5. Vijay Sai Says:

    Interesting post first of all…….here is my little bit….

    The shukla yajurveda samhita gives another story of how Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth passes by every door early in the morning and hence the rangoli was a sign to attract and welcome her. The traditional enterance door of the hindu house hold is always decorated with a rangoli, mango leaves on its top and occassionally flowers.

    Another story goes in the Charaka Samhita that the Rangoli, which is a highly scientific and geometrical diagram is drawn not only as a decorative piece outside the house but also that there are specific diagrams drawn only on specific occassions. Not all sorts of rangoli can be drawn everywhere. For example, the Yagna hundi cannot have diagrams of flowers around it and must have diagrams that collate to an astral diagram in colliding with the specific nakshatras during that specific poojas..! NOW….could our ancient practitioners get more scintific then that?!

    Similarly, rangoli must not be drawn for some number of days out side a house in which there has been a death. A rangoli must be drawn only by a woman ( read:the sri chakra paritoshakam ) be she a young girl, housewife, mother or a widow. Also it must be drawn only in the first Prahara ( from brahma muhurta to a couple of hours after sunrise )of the day or the last prahara ( a few hours before sunset to the time for dinner). And it must be drawn on a wet ground. It must be changed everyday, so on and so forth

    That way, the rangoli, extends itself from being a mear decorative piece to something with a scientific and philosophical meaning.

    But sadly, now a days we see that many lazy people not understand the meaning and not only draw all sorts of silly designs , but also draw it at all sorts of odd times. Hopefully, people will learn more in the days to come…

  6. Meghana Says:

    very nice

  7. Meghana Says:

    nice rangoli srilakshmi

  8. […] Rangoli: The art of floor painting […]

  9. Great article and I have borrowed you article link to my latest Blog! Hope you don’t mind

  10. rk Says:

    honour is mine. absolutely no probs.
    you have a great article in your blog on Rangoli.

  11. rk Says:

    thanks. iruve rangoli thinda kathe majaa kodthu!

    ‘painted rangoli’ kelavu varshagala nantara nodakkaagalla. chekke-chekkeyagi kittu hogiratte ella kade.

    nimm comment odhida mele nenapu banthu — rangoli cometitionalli naanu bhagavahisi prize geddhidhini saar college-alli.

    vijay sai,
    thanks for your interesting comment giving the story, the scientific and philosophical meaning behind rangoli.

    srilakshmi says ‘thank you’!

  12. Nivedita Says:

    Beautiful Rangolis. I have taken a copy of all of them to try at home. Hope you dont mind.

  13. Srilakshmi Says:

    you can certainly take a copy of the patterns. really happy to know that you will be trying them at home.
    more designs will be featured regularly on this blog.
    thanks for your interest.

  14. Anjali Says:

    This is a wonderful and informative series on Rangoli. We have a tradition of Pookalam in Kerala. Rangoli that is made with colourful flowers during the ten days of Onam festival. This link has beautiful designs. Check it out….

  15. kamalakar jadhav Says:

    I want the similar meanig of rangoli in english.. rangoli is sanskrit name ..what it is called in english

  16. School Teacher Says:

    Great Info – please can you tell me where I can buy coloured rice? I need enough for 100 students.

  17. NANDKUMAR Says:


    Thanks for lot of information which is base of Rangoli providing by you……… thanks again..!

  18. Vismaya Says:

    HI This is vismaya I want the rangoil designs with diagram Please Can do me Favour By sending this For if the Rangoil design is 13to7 it should be shown clearly

  19. Rakesh Varudu Says:

    Good Article on Rangoli

  20. quilting tips Says:

    Keep up the great piece of work, I read few blog posts on this site and I think that your web blog is very interesting and has got bands of excellent info .

  21. Rajesh Says:

    oh very nice post

  22. samaganam Says:

    Sir,sorry if I am responding in a rather Haphazard way,but what ever article catches my eye first,I am going over it.Nice research sir,More than the actual rangoli,you actually drew it.Don’t know what exactly you call it.
    Sankranthi is the right season for this rangoli.Like margazhi season for music.

  23. Even I making different Rangoli designs every year. This Diwali I am surely going to pick something from here. Lovely designs must say! Thanx for sharing.

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