Rangoli is a folk art form which is practiced in India since ancient times. The floor in the living room, courtyards, walls, space in front of the main door are decorated with several designs using rice powder, coloured rice, coloured sand, powder made from special kind of rock which is white in colour. Traditionally in South Indian homes, irrespective of the caste, all Hindus adorn the space in front of the house every day with a rangoli. It is considered to be auspicious and believed to bring good luck to the homes.
On festival days and other auspicious occasions like marriage and other family gatherings special and intricate designs are made using flower petals and other natural and synthetic colours. The traditional designs are passed on from one generation to another and the tradition is kept alive.
Rangoli is known by different names in different states. It is known as Kolam in Tamil Nadu, Muggu in Andhra Pradesh, Aripana in Bihar, Alpana in West Bengal, Chowk Pujan in Uttar Pradesh and Mandana in Rajasthan.
Rangoli designs are innumerable and consist of various geometric shapes and designs. They showcase the skill of the person who draws.
Traditionally rangoli is drawn as a square grid in Northern parts of India, as a hexagonal grid in South India and in Kerala, the Onam festival rangolis are usually circular in shape. The materials used are also different in different parts of the country. In South India, the rangoli is based on rice floor and in the north it is on gypsum which is known as chirodi.
Rangoli designs are made by using dots and then joining them with the desired design. Then the design is filled up with colours.
Freehand rangoli designs are drawn without using any dots. A creative person can draw beautiful designs and patterns with ease.
Nowadays because of migration of people within India, the styles are mixed and get adopted easily.
In olden days and still in villages, the front portion in front of the house is sprinkled with cow dung water and later rangoli is drawn on it. Cow dung is proven to have several antiseptic properties and is believed to protect the house. The rangoli is drawn with rice flour powder. The rice flour attracts insects like ants and it is like offering food for other beings. It is a symbol of harmonious existence with nature. Rangoli is drawn to invite goddess Lakshmi and seek her blessings.
Rangoli and rangoli patterns are unique to Indian sub continent. All through India, rangoli is drawn in some form or the other. The designs and patterns may vary but the underlying theme is similar for all designs. It advocates unity in diversity.