Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rangoli

As I just completed reading "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and thinking about the "Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" by Eckhart Tolle. My friend invited me for her yearly Diwali (Indian festival) Party. I remembered last year’s party and had to go through my photos to see Rangoli, which she had painted in the entrance on the floor. So I decided to reflect my thoughts on Rangoli.

What is Rangoli?
The word Rangoli probably is derived from "rang" (color) + "aavalli" (row), which means row of colors, creepers of colors. Basically, Rangoli is the art of drawing images and motifs on the floor of homes near the entrance using different color powders. Generally these floor decorations are done at auspicious occasions especially in Diwali. The traditional designs are geometric patterns and motifs of leaves, lotus, peacocks, mango, etc. Designs vary based on the materials used. Different materials are used in different regions, Dry rice powder, and colored chalks/powders are used in South and wet colors are used in North. I remember drawing geometric design with acrylic paints in my home growing up in India.

The Rangoli in the photo, done by my friend Ruby Who is originally from Calcutta, Bengal in East India and now resides in Saratoga, CA. She used her fingers to paint white rice powder mixed with water in a very artistic way to paint Rangoli. The thickness and curve of the lines vary by the movement of fingers and hand. This sounds easy but it is not. You can not paint over and do not want to start over. You have to go with the flow and it is not about perfection and it is also about the process. It definitely is an art form. Flowers and Diya (oil lamps or Candles)are used to complement the design.

I also have included my interpretation of Rangoli in a digital format shown below. I always do gravitate towards graphical forms.


During Diwali time, people make Rangoli in front of their entrance. The primary reason of making Rangoli is to welcome Goddess Laxmi, (the Goddess of wealth) and the Guests (Atithi) who occupy a special place. The Rangoli symbolizes welcome sign for the guests, creative expression for the young ladies and an event of celebration. At a deeper level, Rangoli symbolizes the Fragility of life. The sand or the powder of Rangoli are not permanent like life. It is very much like Sand paintings done by Native Americans or Mandala paintings done by Tibetan Buddhists or flower Rangoli done in Kerala as shown below. It seems like people must experience something special Spiritual in the process of creating it.