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December 24, 2008 > The Art of Rangoli: Depicting colors of life

The Art of Rangoli: Depicting colors of life

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Courtesy of Mruduta Mervana

The colorful design of Rangoli is more than meets the eye. It is an expression of warmth, hospitality and celebration. Derived from the Sanskrit language, the word literally means the creative expression of art through the use of color.

The term is derived from the words "rang," which in the Hindi language means color, and "aavalli," which means row of colors. Rangoli is one of the most popular art forms in India. A beautiful combination of various colors, the Rangoli images are mainly drawn on the floor, and at times on the walls, too.

The enchanting piece of art is drawn on Diwali, the Indian festival of joy and sweets, to welcome Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth. Considered as a holy ritual, the art is drawn to mark auspicious occasions. The art of rangoli, which originally started in Maharashtra in India, is today popular in different parts of the country by different names. It is known as "Rangoli" in Maharashtra, Alpana in Bengal, and "Kolam" in South India.

Some of the designs are hundreds of years old, being passed down through the generations. Yet there is a common thread in all the diverse designs. They are all geometric and proportioned, drawn by connecting dots, though over years it has also become a free hand art.

To explore the vast realm of the designs and award the best, Rangoli competitions are organized. Shreemaya Krishnadham Community and Cultural Center, Bay Area Youth Vaishnav Parivar's (www.bayvp.org) facility in Milpitas, organized such a competition. "Rangoli competition was the first such competition organized by us. We plan to have them annually," said Mruduta Mervana, member of the organization.

"The color medium is not traditional paints, but a kind of powdered color. A variety of other material is also used to give it more depth and dimension. Some of the competitors are artists who have experience in other forms of art while some of them have an expertise over it from years of practice" said Mruduta Mervana.

The patterns are usually drawn with a finger using rice powder or colored chalk. Artists add their creative touch by decorating the designs with grains, pulses, beads, or flowers.

This art reflects the Indian values of hospitality, diligence and perfection in art. It is a way to worship the divine and surrender to the powers beyond the realm of human understanding. It also depicts the transient state of life. A gust of wind can wipe away the entire creation at any time.

The earlier designs had more of floral touch, but today the themes are as diverse as the use of colors. Artists also depict the socio-economic situations of the country or the current events through art. But no matter what the theme or the medium or the choice of colors, an artistic rangoli is always a visual delight and much more.

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