In Indian traditions several practices have been intertwined with everyday life. The art of drawing rangoli is as old as the Indian culture. Since times immemorial, it is a common practice all over India to draw a rangoli at religious ceremonies and other auspicious occasions. Rangoli is derived from the Sanskrit word “Rangavalli”, which means an array of colours.
Rangoli is drawn in front of the house, courtyards, walls and other locations of religious importance. In a traditional South Indian Hindu household, a day starts with the cleaning of the front open space in front of the house with water. Later the area is decorated with artistic rangoli. It is believed that a rangoli can ward off evil spirits from entering the house. It is also said that rangoli is drawn to impress Goddess Lakshmi who will shower her blessings on her devotees.
In ancient days, cow dung was mixed with water and later applied to the floor which was usually made of mud. Cow dung has several antiseptic properties. It could prevent several disease causing germs from entering the house. The area was decorated with rangolis comprising of various designs and patterns.
Though the habit of spraying cow dung is still prevalent in villages and not seen in towns and cities, drawing rangoli is still seen even in towns and cities. With modernization, habits of people have changed. Old traditions give way to modern life style wherein several traditional practices are getting faded.
Rangoli is a folk art form which precedes painting and sculpture. Drawing a rangoli is considered a preliminary necessity before the start of any religious ritual.
Rangoli is also drawn to welcome visitors and guests to the house. it gives a colourful and warm welcome to the visitors. Guests in India are treated like Gods and there is a saying “Athidi devobhava” which means that a guest is equivalent to God.
Rangoli is drawn in several ways. A grid of dots is drawn on the surface and the skilful fingers of the artist weave curves and lines through this grid to form wonderful designs.
Different natural colours like turmeric and vermillion are used for filling the designs which add vibrant colour to the pattern. Nowadays synthetic colours are also used for filling purpose. The coloured powder is allowed to run between the gap formed when the thumb and fore finger are pinched together.
Rice flour was originally used to draw rangoli patterns. it used to attract small insects like ants and was considered as an offering to other beings.
Whatever the patterns or designs may be, the underlying principle of Rangoli is the same throughout India. It has been handed over to the next generation as a legacy and Indian culture is adept with such practices.