India and her glorious festivals add life to the otherwise mundane days. And one of the many forms of celebration is a colourful Rangoli, a pattern drawn at the doorsteps and then filled with love in the form of colours. Girls grow up drawing rangolies and personalising them. I grew up with the non-colourful version, all white, which we in Telugu call “Muggu”. Every morning before sunrise my Granny would dissolve cow dung in water and smear the veranda of our house with this liquid and once it was semi dry she would create mesmerising patterns. The creation would start with dots and then either the dots were joined or lines would run around them forming a beautiful pattern. This ritual is still followed in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. However, nowadays the cow dung is used only in rural areas.
Every day Muggu changes, but during festivals the size gets bigger and more intricate depicting the festival being celebrated. Traditionally, rice flour was used in creating the patterns. Now rice flour is substituted with chalk, paint or stickers in modern homes. I was introduced to this beautiful and therapeutic art by my Granny and then I learnt the tricks of the trade from my Mom and Aunts.
The most thrilling part of Muggu creation is the part after the dots are placed in place. It is now that one needs to have a steady hand to pour the rice flour by pinching it between one’s finger and thumb whilst following the dots to complete the pattern and reach the end point. The best part being the starting point and the end point of the pattern is the same. Any wrong turn around the dots, the Muggu loses its charm and the whole process restarts.
My Granny had a rule in place for Muggu, she would insist that our Muggu should be smiling at people who left the house in the morning and welcoming anyone who was visiting the house, even though it was the milkman. Fresh Muggu had to be there before the day started. Sometimes, when she would see us kids watching her create Muggu she would tell interesting things about our tradition. About this particular tradition, she told us that the area smeared with cow dung represents the sky, dots being the stars and the pattern being the beautiful world God has created. Maybe that was one of the ways to remember the creator.
Those where the lovely days but now, being a mom and a professional, I hardly get time to create fresh Muggu every morning; instead I painted one at my doorstep. Though it’s the same every day. It brings me joy every time I see it. Whenever I am holidaying in Southern India, I make it a point to take an early morning stroll to enjoy the mesmerising display of Muggus at every doorstep whether it’s a house or a shop, there is one smiling at me; wishing me Good Morning.