Flowers of the Indian Home: The Brilliance of Rangoli

2

April 5, 2014 by katmcdaniel

People around the globe draw inspiration from nature to decorate their homes and workplaces. What lies beneath this creative impulse?

Flower petal Rangoli,  Chennai, India

Flower petal Rangoli,
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, Public Domain Image

Rangoli is an esteemed folk art which is known by many names across the Indian subcontinent where it originated, including Kolam, Muggu, Mandana, Alpana and Chowkpurna. Families make patterns from materials such as rice flour, sand, chalk or flower petals to adorn floors at doorsteps and in courtyards and living rooms. In their original context, Rangoli were made by women as sacred welcome mats for Hindu deities and were generally geometric and floral, although they might feature depictions of gods and goddesses. The beauty and creativity of their design has expanded to include other forms and even faith traditions. In some regions of India a home without a Rangoli is considered a very sad and unloved place.

Muggu in Mahabubabad, Andra Pradesh, India © Chidambar Rao Bhukya with CCLicense

Muggu in Mahabubabad, Andra Pradesh, India
© Chidambar Rao Bhukya with CCLicense

Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India © Balaji.B with CCLicense

in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
© Balaji.B with CCLicense

© Bhaskaranaidu with CCLicense

© baskarinaidu with CCLicense

Some of these designs have been passed down for centuries, representing the unique signature of a particular family, while others are flights of fancy. As in all forms of art, there is value in both tradition and improvisation.

Rangoli in Washington Square Park, NYC by Joe Mangrum image © Dave Winer with CCLicense

Rangoli in Washington Square Park, NYC by Joe Mangrum
image © Dave Winer with CCLicense

Traditional Rangoli from Goa, India  © Darshan Kandolkar with CCLicense

Doorstep Rangoli in Goa, India
© Darshan Kandolkar with CCLicense

Rangoli in Hyderabad, India © adityamadhav83 with CCLicense

Rangoli in Hyderabad, India
© adityamadhav83 with CCLicense

Kolam is a traditional form which originated in the southernmost Indian state of Tamil Nadu, usually consisting of repeating symmetrical patterns laid out over a grid of dots. Every day, millions of Indian women rise early to make Kolam before dawn. These creations are then ready to be walked on, rained on or blown by the wind as the day progresses, a symbol of the impermanent beauty of life.

© Thamizhpparithi Maari with CCLicense

© Thamizhpparithi Maari with CCLicense

in Attur Town, Tamil Nadu © தகவலுழவன் with CCLicense

in Attur Town, Tamil Nadu
© தகவலுழவன் with CCLicense

Kolam in Mumbai © Appaiah with CCLicense

Kolam in Mumbai
© Appaiah with CCLicense

In addition to decorative and sacred use, Kolam have also been used to draw ants out of the home and to draw birds and small animals to the doorstep to feed. As much as human beings seek to protect themselves from nature, we always seem to desire a relationship with it. Closed geometric forms have been favored because they are believed to prevent evil spirits from entering the home.

Elaborate Kolam with deity figures, Festival of the Arts of South India, 2001 © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra with CCLicense

Elaborate Kolam, Festival of the Arts of South India, 2001
© Jean-Pierre Dalbéra with CCLicense

In areas where they are not made every day, Rangoli are made during Hindu festivals, such as Diwali, Onam, and Pongal, as a welcoming gesture and a talisman for good luck. Marriages and community gatherings also frequently feature intricate and rich patterns.

Decorating for Diwali © Jon Robson with CCLicense

Decorating for Diwali
© Jon Robson with CCLicense

Diwali Rangoli  © Pon Malar with CCLicense

Diwali Rangoli
© Pon Malar with CCLicense

Diwali Rangoli © Subharnab Majumdar with CCLicense

Diwali Rangoli
© Subharnab Majumdar with CCLicense

© Vrindavan Lila with CCLicense

Rangoli at Gaura Purnima Festival in Mayapur, West Bengal, India © Vrindavan Lila with CCLicense

Rangoli at hotel in Pune, Maharashtra, India © Yogesh Sawant with CCLicense

Rangoli at hotel in Pune, Maharashtra, India
© Yogesh Sawant with CCLicense

As with all decoration, there is no doubt that Rangoli is a means to show wealth and prosperity. We may be impressed by costly materials in huge, elaborate designs, but the simplest drawing can sometimes be the most powerful to the eye and the heart.

Hampi, India © fraboof with CCLicense

Kolam, Hampi, Karnataka, India
© fraboof with CCLicense

Rangoli celebrate natural forms as matrices that draw inspiration. The wonder of the world around us creates space for human creativity and happiness. The more sterile and bland things around us become, the less we experience them. What does your creativity and art invite into your life?

Rangoli in Kakinada © adityamadhav with CCLicense

Rangoli in Kakinada
© adityamadhav with CCLicense

© McKay Savage with CCLicense

© McKay Savage with CCLicense

One of the most poignant elements of Rangoli is community involvement. Families and friends come together to make them, laboring together to create beauty for themselves, as well as for neighbors and visitors. This is also our mission here at synkroniciti. We hope that you feel inspired to make something new today.

Kolam Competition, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India © Simply CVR with CCLicense

Kolam Competition, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
© Simply CVR with CCLicense

© Mayapur with CCLicense

© Mayapur with CCLicense

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2 thoughts on “Flowers of the Indian Home: The Brilliance of Rangoli

  1. PoshPedlar says:

    Stunning! The colours are so vivid.

    • katmcdaniel says:

      Thank you! It’s such a gorgeous art form and there are some fantastic photographers sharing their work on the internet.

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