Thursday, December 31, 2009


The Basics of Rangoli

I have received many requests for posting Rangoli designs as the auspicious month of Dhanurmasam has started from December 16th. Here let me first give an introduction.
Rangoli as is known as in Hindi or known as Muggu or Rangavalli in Telugu is the art of drawing beautiful designs on the walls or on the floor.  It is known as Alpana in Bengali, Kolam in Tamil. These designs have religious and ritualistic significance besides being decorative and adding beauty to the interiors and exteriors.
In India, where the houses were previously constructed with mud, the walls were coated with clay or mud or cow dung or a mixture of cow dung and mud. On this various designs were drawn using red soil or a paste made of rice flour or white lime powder.
In South India, in villages and towns the front yards are not paved even to this day. So in order to avoid the dust coming into the house, the yards are daily cleaned early in the morning and water is sprinkled. Mostly, cow dung mixed in water is sprinkled. Or a thick paste of cow dung and water is made an applied. This coat lasts for a  fortnight.This is an art. I learnt from one of the tribal women as a little girl. I got to practice it on their walls and yard.
After that designs are drawn using a white coarse powder made of crushed lime stone, rice flour or mixture of both. This helps in keeping the insects and bugs from entering into the house. Any way these designs are drawn everyday and are an indication that all is well in that house.If someone in the house passes away these designs are not drawn for the entire mourning period of ten days. On special occasions elaborate designs are drawn and are decorated with colours, flowers, coloured stones, rice husk or saw dust  coated with colours. But now we so many new forms like drawing in water, designs like paintings and so on.
As the Sun enters the Zodiac sign of Sagittarius, it is known as Dhanurmasam and during this period, Lord Vishnu is worshiped. It is believed that he comes down to earth and as a part of worshiping him, we get get up very early before sun rise and decorate our front yards with beautiful designs. It is believed that the Lord visits those whose houses are beautifully decorated. Actually while drawing these designs Lords name is chanted.This starts around 14th to 16th of December and culminates with the celebration of Sankranthi festival in January 14th to 16th.
During this whole one month, Cow dung is made into small pyramid shapes and decorated with turmeric, vermilion, yellow Pumpkin flowers or Marigold . One big one(considered as (Mother Gowri-the Goddess who is worshiped for happy married life by the women) with several small ones are made and placed in the center of these decorations. Little girls and young maidens in the neighbor hood are invited and they pray to the Goddess go round it singing beautiful songs, asking for a good husband and happy and prosperous  married life. These songs contain lot of folklore. The next day these are removed and patted on to the walls to form the cow dung cakes and sun dried. These are used as fuel and cooking a sweet rice pudding (on Ratha Saptami -a festival which comes after Sankranti) and offered to Sun God. Cow dung cakes are still used as fuel in many villages in India Its environmental friendly.
During this holy month women and young ladies compete with each other to draw the best of designs in front of their houses. These days competitions are also being held across our state and also many magazines and news papers carry designs daily contributed by the readers. Some special designs are drawn during this period. This I will discuss as I post the designs. I will be posting designs from now on.


The designs contain natural subjects like flowers, fruits, vegetables, birds animals and so on apart from the geometric shapes like, dots, lines, circles, squares and triangle etc  . The most popular figures are lotus, peacocks, swans, ducks, rabbits, stars, sun, moon, butterflies, deers, elephants, horses, conch shells, feet of Goddess Lakshmi, fishes and many more. Rangoli is basically of two types;
  • Free hand drawings using lines etc
  • Designs drawn using dots.
 This is the powder with which the designs are drawn.
This is how the powder is held between thumb and forefinger, and line is drawn.The thinner and neater the line, the skilled the artist is.

Some people hold the powder like this and draw two/three lines simultaneously. Its very difficult. I could not master it.

Here are some frequently designs drawn directly or by using lines. 
This is the most simplest design we draw quite frequently. 

 This is the simple form. I think this is known as Star of David in West.  Variants of this are as follows....

    Hope  you liked them will post some more next time.


    Lakshmi said...

    being in a big joing family there was always a good competition between we the children as who will draw a big rangoli..those days never come back sigh..
    my cousin used to say tht there is a scientic reason behind putting the the early morning when there is raising sun rays falling there will be some gas emits by chemical reaction between cowdung and lime powder which act as a insecticide and good for health..but dont know how true it is..
    and heard there are rangolis only have to put in morning to welcom lakshmi (wealth godess) and particular rangolis for the evening not to allow her outside the it true!!!

    Musing Gal said...

    They are lovely. I have not visited your site before, but I am glad I did. I really appreaciate your spirit to keep up the culture and the patience to do the blogs.