Rangoli – The Art Form Loved Across India

India is a land of colors. Nothing signifies festivity, joy and culture more than a burst of colors in all forms. Think fresh flowers, bright fireworks, new clothes and tasty food with little traditions such as rangoli. Any Indian festival or occasion would be incomplete without the traditional drawing of colors outside and in our homes. Rangoli is a celebration of life itself and passed on to generation after generation.

rangoli photo
India – Kolam by mckaysavage under CC BY 2.0

Rangoli – What does it mean?

Derived from the word color (Rang) Rangoli is the art of drawing designs using powdered colors, rice, flowers, food, petals or even sand.

Known by different names all across India, the essence remains the same- to celebrate an auspicious time and to bring positive energy in the house.

Its Significance

The world can keep changing but we often remember the traditions and habits our family taught us. Rangoli was one of the earliest art forms used to indicate the season of festive cheer, weddings, celebrations and marriages.

Like different rituals, drawing Rangoli also became a small ritual which formed a part of every celebration in its whole. A mother teaching their children or grandmothers passing on the art to the newly-wed daughter-in-law, drawing this sacred art form was a shared moment of joy. Traditionally done by women, the designs are usually depictive of the region and festival. Over the years, people have formed their own versions and traditions but the Rangoli has remained a strong part of their narrative. Now women can buy ready patterns and trace it using colors. They can also rely on flowers or food instead of colors to draw the Rangoli.

The tales of Rangoli vary across India. Some say you draw it to welcome the spirits of the gods and goddesses during the festival. While some elders urge us to draw Rangoli to keep the negative energy and spirits away from the home. They believe the Rangoli can guard us and the house from such unwanted beings. That is why a lot of designs will feature some deity or nature so as to create a positive and uplifting feeling.

Women are expected to get up early in the morning, have a bath and then start making the rangoli. Some regions in India also use rice flour to make rangoli. They follow the belief that it is also a means to feed the smaller creatures who stay outside and around their house. Traditional families pass on the designs from matriarch to matriarch with each new generation adding their touch to this art form.

Elder women will also advise you not to wipe the design off with a broom or cloth or with your feet but wipe it with your hands and water.

You will see the difference in designs, shapes, materials and colors in different regions. Every region and state gives it their unique flavor. Mahrashtrians for example will draw Rangoli on the flower to welcome good spirits and repel the negative energies. In Kerala, you will find women and girls of all ages painstakingly preparing a flower display every single day during the celebration of the festival of Onam. During Diwali, you can find intricate designs in the shape of diyas, lamps, lanterns or depicting Goddess Lakshmi all around India.

Rangoli can be found in temples and religious institutions. Hotels and resorts in India will often have intricate in their lobby. It is done usually to let tourists and travelers have a glimpse at the bright and lovely art form.

Geometric, abstract, simple, flamboyant, floral, painted or landscape, the styles of Rangoli may be many but the message remains singularly of tradition, respect and devotion.

Featured Photo: Pataleshwar Caves by ramnath bhat under CC BY 2.0

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