The word rangoli is derived from Sanskrit ‘Rangavalli’ which means a row of colours. Simple to intricate designs drawn on the floor and walls with rice flour, special rock powder and chirodi are known as rangoli designs. Rangoli is as old as Indian tradition. The art of making rangoli is passed on from generation to generation. In India it is still alive as peoples’ lives are intertwined with traditional practices.
Rangoli is known by different names in different parts of the country. In Tamil Nadu it is known as kolam, in Andhra Pradesh as muggu, Alpana in West Bengal, Aripana in Bihar, Mandanain Rajasthan and Chowk Pujan in Uttar Pradesh.
A rangoli is said to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits from entering the house.
A kolam is drawn using a grid of dots. Curved loops and geometric patterns are drawn along the grid. Each design has its own grid and it becomes as easy practice to draw the pattern with the help of dots. Dots help even amateur people to draw the patterns and designs with ease.
Every day before sun rise women in Hindu households in Tamil Nadu draw kolams on the ground in front of the house with white rice powder or a powder made from grinding a special white rock. People walk on these designs through out the day, they are rained out, blown away by the wind. Next day, again the floor is swept, cleaned with water and a new kolam is made. Kolams are usually made on a damp surface as the powder gets a hold on the surface.
In villages the mud ground is sprinkled with water in which cow dung is mixed. Cow dung is believed to have anti septic properties and acts as a threshold to protect the house. The floor rubbed by cow dung paste also provides a contrast colour to the white powder with which a kolam is made.
Decoration of the house is not just the purpose of drawing a kolam. As kolams are drawn with rice flour, ants and other small insects get attracted and eat it. It is like offering food to other beings in the universe and is a symbol of harmonious co-existence. Kolam is also drawn to welcome Goddess Lakshmi into the homes.
During the month of Margazhi women of the household showcase their skill of drawing beautiful kolams in competition to each other. The entire width of the road is occupied by big kolams.
Special traditional designs of rangoli are drawn in auspicious occasions like weddings and other ceremonies.