Rangoli is an Indian traditional art produced on the floor of households to mark something auspicious. The name is formed of two words; ‘rang’ meaning colour and ‘aavalli’ meaning coloured creepers, thus together translates to ‘row of colours’. The creation of rangoli near the doorstep is believed to welcome good luck, hence it is usually done on festivals or special occasions. Ancient scriptures and Puranas have also underlined the historical importance of the ritual. The art is believed to originate in the state of Maharashtra, from where it gradually spread to other parts of the country.
There are several legends associated with the origin of Rangoli art in India. The earliest being a mention in Chitralakshana, elaborate writing on Indian paintings. One of the earliest legends goes like when a prince from a particular kingdom met with sudden death, the people of the land prayed to Lord Brahma, to make him alive again. Moved by their prayers, Lord Brahma asked the King to paint a portrait of the boy on the floor. Thereafter, He blessed the picture with life, bringing the boy back to life. This is the most widely heard story on the emergence of Rangoli. Since it is created with colour powders and sand, it is considered a fragile art form that gets washed off easily but when accounted for spirituality, it symbolizes a metaphor that reminds impermanence of life and Maya or illusion that life is.
The Rangoli tradition dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. Writings about the art can be found in Mahabharata, where milkmaids drew it while remembering Lord Krishna. It was mentioned among 64 forms of art in Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra. After Maharashtra, South India especially Chola Dynasty has left folk tales about the extensive rangoli making in their palaces. These decorative designs are made especially during festivals like Diwali, Pongal, Onam, Dussehra, or special occasions like marriage, thread ceremony, or other religious events. The Rangolis created at these functions are much elaborate than the regular ones. Rangoli is present in various forms all over India; differing according to their practices, culture, and materials used. Hence known by different names too. No formal training is required to master this art, it can be easily grasped from family or friends. Over the years, as tradition has let modern variations into it, it thrives in the current era in a more charismatic form.