Rangoli is a secular, visual art created with the goal of decorating an ordinary, everyday object - the floor. The word Rangoli is a Sanskrit word which means a creative expression of art with colors. From ancient times, women in India have been decorating the entrances of homes and courtyards. It was believed that Rangoli would bring luck to the home and keep the evil eye away.
In Indian culture, all guests and visitors occupy a very special place. Rangoli is an expression of hospitality, as it gives provides a warm and colorful welcome to visitors.
Rangoli folk art is a very ancient tradition, the origins of which are very difficult to trace. Examples of Rangoli are found in ancient ruins like Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro. The art of floor painting is one which has survived the influx of different cultural influences and retained the spirit of Indian life.
Rangoli can be divided into three major categories - floor illustrations (Rangoli, Alpana), mural/wall painting (Madhubani, Worli) & drawing on paper or textiles (Phad painting). The designs are inspired by regional stories, beliefs, and customs. The designs are often simple and geometrical (with lines, dots, squares, circles, triangles), but could invoke symbolic forms. Some symbols of animals or plants such as the lotus, mango leaf, fish, parrot, peacock, are associated with prosperity, health, happiness, and good luck. These symbols can be found in much of the textiles and other arts that have been passed on from generation to generation.
Designs may also vary as they reflect traditions, folklore and practices that are unique to each area of India. Rangoli Art is decoration that has different names in the different regions of India: Kolam in South India, Rangoli in Maharashtra, Saathiyo in Gujarat, Muggu in Andhra Pradesh, Chowkpurana in Northern India, Madana in Rajasthan, Aripana in Bihar and Alpana in Bengal – just to name a few.
Floor decoration is also done in Tibetan and Nepali cultures. In fact, Tibetan monks are very well known for their extremely intricate floor paintings done with colored powders that can take weeks to create.
The main medium for Rangoli is usually dry or wet rice flour, sindoor (vermillion), haldi (tumeric), red brick powder, limestone, or other natural colors. Colored sand/rice, and sometimes flower petals are a more modern variation.
Designs are made by sprinkling the powder with fingers on the floor. The artist’s fingers serve as a brush. Wet paste is applied with the help of a piece of cloth dipped in paste and squeezed with the fingers. It is traditionally done by women. Oil lamps, or diyas, can also be placed in Rangoli to give the paintings yet another dimension