Rangoli literally means “a row of colors” and derived from the Sanskrit word “Rangavalli”. It is an Indian art form having cultural, social and religious significance. Rangoli is a temporary design pattern created on a hard surface, usually on the floor, by hand. It is both auspicious as well as has an aesthetic significance. These are generally made in courtyards and living rooms as the idea behind it is to welcome someone to the house; be it the Gods, guests or positive vibes. To create the design different materials are used, though traditionally dry natural powders in bright colors are most popular, rangoli designs can also be made using flowers, paint, sparkling materials etc.
India is a country of many of cultures and with each having its own faith and belief systems it is not surprising to hear different stories about the significance of rangoli. Some believe it originated in mythological times of Ramayana, some are of the opinion that it was the ancient rulers of Chola dynasty that brought rangolis to the fore. Some believe it simply originated from abstract art made on stones and walls in historic times.
Rangoli is essentially a Hindu custom and is made during important festivals like Diwali, Pongal, Onam and the like. In many households across India though, it is common to see Rangolis being created every day. Especially in south India where rangolis are also known as Kolams (in Tamil), these are made daily with less intricate designs and maybe less use of color and smaller in size. Depending on the space, rangolis can be made in different sizes as there are no criteria regarding dimensions and designs. There are in fact different names for rangoli in different parts of India. For example, kolam in Tamil Nadu, Mandana in Rajasthan, Chowkpurana in Chhattisgarh, Alpana in West Bengal, Aripana in Bihar, Chowk pujan in Uttar Pradesh, Muggu in Andhra Pradesh, Golam kolam or kalam in Kerala.
Rangoli is believed to bring in good luck to the household and therefore the ideal place for it is usually the entrance of the house. Therefore just outside the main door, in the courtyard, hallway or living room are ideal spots. Since it is considered auspicious, rangolis are commonly seen in weddings and other celebrations in different cultures across the country.
Rangoli designs can range from very traditional to modern. It is like painting on a blank canvas and therefore one can create anything that one imagines. During festivals though, people stick to bright traditional patterns. It is interesting to note that it is usually the women who make rangolis; although men are increasingly participating in rangoli making. Rangoli designs can be simple geometric patterns, figures of Gods (Ganesh being very popular) and birds, especially peacock as it allows good use of bright colors with stunning results. Geometric patterns are commonly used for daily rangoli making as they look beautiful in plain white border without any colors filled in. Though Rangoli designs have a religious significance, not all rangoli makers are limited to such sentiments
A Rangoli pattern is identified by some peculiar aspects. The most important of them being, the materials used. Traditionally rice flour or wheat flour is used as a base to draw a basic pattern and then colors are added to fill in the spaces. Some people simply use a chalk or a pen where possible to draw and then start with the powders. Natural colors are usually Vermillion and Haldi (turmeric), but with the advent of newer materials, dry powders are available in chemical and organic forms in hundreds of colors. Therefore it is easy to create a vast range of designs. Another important aspect of a traditional rangoli are the auspicious symbols. These can vary across different cultures and are passed on from one generation to another. During important festivals like Diwali, Ganesha, the Hindu God for good luck is used very often or even the diya pattern. Lotus flower, mango leaves, fish, different kind of birds and human figures are other peculiarities of a traditional rangoli design.
Rangoli creation requires some amount of skill and talented individuals can create spectacular designs in a matter of minutes. The way the color powder is handled can range from a finger hold to fist hold. Depending on the intricacy of the design different holds are used. The good news for a newbie is that it gets better with experience and practice. Initially one may find it daunting to fill in colors in the tiniest of sections, but with time the skill can be acquired. It is advisable to start out practicing with geometric patterns and then move on to more intricate designs, abstracts and portraits even.
The beauty about Rangoli is that it is not limited to very stringent rules. Even if there are age-old customs involved, newer design materials and design inspirations have been beautifully incorporated with traditional ones. It helps that rangoli designs are usually beautiful to look at and therefore more the creativity, better the result. During the festive season, rangoli design making competitions are quite common across India in which people take part very enthusiastically; be it students, housewives, and even men; young and old. From pretty obvious and popular designs to some really remarkable and intricate ones can be witnessed. A lot of talented rangoli makers are experts in creating portraits of famous personalities. At times it can be difficult to distinguish if it’s a painting or a rangoli.
It is amazing to see how the mixing of people across regions due to job movements or other reasons keeps adding flavors to rangoli designs. North Indian rangoli designs are usually square shaped, Kerela rangolis are round and hexagonal grids are common in Tamil Nadu. But the fusion of sensibilities helps bring in fresh perspective and design results. Also, the kind of materials that are the used can range from the regular chalk and rice flour for drawing the initial pattern and filling to cement mixed colorful powders are allow freedom in creative expression.
Rangoli making has been an art form and one of the few ones that has managed to retain its significance through ages. In some cultures, no auspicious occasion is complete without a rangoli design at the venue. Through its easy interpretation, easier learning curve and ability for reinvention, it is heartening to see an old tradition flourish right along with its modern avatar and yet not lose its soul. For some inspiration, have a look at our magazine or try to contact our professional, we can guarantee an amazing work for your beautiful home.
Did you just created a wonderful rangoli design? Would you do one again? Let us know any of your tips and tricks on how to choose your own rangoli design.