Rangolis are one of the oldest and most beautiful art forms of India.
Simply put Rangolis are patterns or motifs, usually depicting Nature, drawn on the floor or a wall with powdered color made out of natural vegetable dyes. The term Rangoli is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘rang' which means color, and ‘aavalli' which means rows or creepers. So a Rangoli is basically a row of color, weaved into a pattern of sorts.
These beautiful painted Rangolis immediately remind one of the royal Rajput houses where Rangolis were drawn all year round but the grandest and most beautiful one's were drawn only on Diwali. Even today people follow that custom as they decorate their houses with these Diwali Rangolis in order to appease Goddess Lakshmi and welcome her to their houses.
According to the Chitralakshana, the earliest Indian treatise on painting, when the son of a King's high priest died, the king was most distressed. Brahma, lord of the universe decided to help the king and asked him to paint a likeness of the boy on the wall so that Brahma could breathe life into him again. That was believed to be the first Rangoli. Another legend has it that God, in one of his creative moods,
extracted the juice of a mango and painted with it the figure of a woman so beautiful that the painting put all the maidens in heaven at shame!
The Indian Kings and royal families to gave impetus to this art form which it was believed that only the very skilled could attempt. The Chola rulers are notable in their propagation of the art of Rangolis.
Like Hindu and Buddhist Mandalas, the reason for using powder or sand as a medium for creating Rangoli (and its resulting fragility) is sometimes thought to be a metaphor for the impermanence of life and Maya.
The motifs of a traditional Diwali Rangoli usually depict obejects of Nature like peacocks, swans, flowers, a tree or the sea. Generally the colors were made from Natural dyes, from barks of trees, indigo vegetables and so on and so forth. However, today synthetic colors in a range of bright colors seem to be the norm. The designs are symbolic and common to the entire country, and can include geometrical patterns, with lines, dots, squares; the swastika, lotus, footprints (supposed to be of goddess Lakshmi), creepers, and animals. These motifs often are modified to fit in with the local images and rhythms. One important point is that the
entire pattern must be an unbroken line, with no gaps to be left anywhere for evil spirits to enter.
These beautiful Rangolis are especially painted at the entrance of all houses during Diwali to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Many decorations are carried out solely for the benefit of this ubiquitous Goddess, however Rangolis are the most regal and essential out of them all. Rangoli also has a religious significance, enhancing the beauty of the surroundings and spreading joy and happiness all around. The Divali festival is widely celebrated with Rangoli, since at this time, people visit each other's homes to exchange greetings and sweets.
Rangolis are created in Indian houses, particularly in rural villages, all year round. However, it is a tradition to paint a Rangoli at the entrance of one's home during Diwali with unique patterns. This is done because it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi visits well-lit and decorated homes
on Diwali to bless its members. Therefore, people make colorful Rangolis to welcome this benign Goddess and to usher in the New Year with color in their life. Rangoli also has a religious significance, enhancing the beauty of the surroundings and spreading joy and happiness all around.
Rangoli Patterns are usually designed to resemble Nature like Peacocks, flowers, swans, mangos and creepers. Traditionally the colors were derived from natural sources like barks of trees, flowers and roots. However today they are synthetically manufactured. Besides that a host of other ingredients like rice, chili, turmeric, cereal and pulses to are used to further enhance the beauty of the Rangoli and to create a 3-D effect.
Rangolis have often been credited as one of the most beautiful art forms in the world. The sheer texture and structure of the paintings is unbelievable as is also the subtle color combinations. Women learn to make Rangolis from an early age and it is almost like a family heirloom passed through the ages.