Aipan is one of the traditional forms of Rangoli of Kumaon, and is practiced in the state of Uttarakhand. It is a decorative art form used extensively to decorate floors and walls at the places of worship and entrances of homes.
This art is associated with a great degree of social, cultural as well as religious significance. Also the art of Aipan is passed on from generation to generation, by passing on the patterns to the daughters and daughters-in-law in the family.
Some Aipans are drawn mainly before the performance of rituals while others are for appeasing a particular God or Goddess and a few are drawn purely for aesthetic purposes. Aipan designs are mainly drawn at places of worship, main entrance to a home and the front courtyard of a home. Some of the patterns are significant from a religious point of view and are made especially at the time of ceremonies like marriages, thread ceremonies, naming ceremonies, etc.
Aipan patterns and motifs are typical to the region of Kumaon. For the Kumaonis, each deity in the Hindu pantheon has a special symbol and every occasion demands an Aipan of a different kind. Every Aipan design has a particular meaning attached to it.
A traditional Aipan being drawn
Aipan, drawn in the puja room of a home.
Types of Aipan :
Some of the most popular Aipan designs are briefly explained below:
(All the images presented in this topic where not credited have been sourced from the website www.uttaranchal.org.uk.)
1. Traditional Aipan: Constituents of traditional Aipan designs are, geometrical designs, flowers and imprints drawn linearly, purely for ornamental purposes. These are depicted below:
2. Vasudhara: Vasudhara is made around the Pooja Vedika (pooja altar), places of worship, steps leading to the entrance door of a home, and around the Tulsi plant like a decorative border. The place, that is to be decorated, is painted with Geru (a red coloured soil is made to a paste with water and applied with nimble hands) and then, vertical lines, are made in odd numbers like 5, 7, 9 or 11, with the help of Bishwar. (Soaked rice when ground gives a white powder called Bishwar.) Without drawing the Vasudhara, the Aipan is considered incomplete. This is depicted below.
3. Swastik: The Swastik symbol has a great significance in Aipan.
It is drawn in some form or other during most of the religious rituals. The Swastik in the Hindu mythology represents all Gods and Goddesses, known or unknown. If one does not have the knowledge of the occasion specific Aipan, a Swastik is a religiously accepted substitute.
Swastik represents creation and progress. The four arms of a Swastik inspire one to move forward. Thus the Swastik is the symbol that encourages people to search and march towards success and is thus drawn daily.
The four arms originating from the central rectangle represent different religions. The central rectangle contains the ‘Omkar’. The lines which form the four arms are surrounded by dots, which too have a special significance.
Any Aipan without dots are considered incomplete and inauspicious. During drawing the Aipan, one has to take care that the group or block of lines drawn should end with the dots.
Aipan without dots is drawn only on the 12th day of a person’s death (known as Peepal Pani or Shanti Path). Then these Aipan without dots are removed and fresh Aipan with dots are drawn showing end of the mourning period. This is depicted below.
4. Astadal Kamal: Astadal Kamal is the Aipan that is drawn at the place of a Havan (sacred fire). Its design includes an octagonal figure with lotus petals, and a Swastika in the middle. This is depicted below.
5. Lakshmi Padchinha: Lakshmi Padchinha, comprises of the footprints of Goddess Lakshmi, and is drawn on the occasion of Diwali, right from main entrance of a home to the place of worship or the puja room. This is depicted below.
6. Lakshmi Peeth : Lakshmi Peeth too is drawn on the occasion of Diwali in the puja room. This is depicted below.
7. Dhuliarghya Var Chauka: Dhuliarghya Var Chauka is drawn on the occasion of marriage. In earlier days the bridegroom's entourage usually walked to the bride's home and everyone had dusty feet by the time they arrived. As the groom represented "Narayan" or God himself, he was greeted with devotion and his dust covered feet were washed before the welcoming puja was performed. He was made to stand on a chauka or a small stool on which was painted a tree like figure, which is a special form of Aipan for this occasion. The top resembles Shiva's Trishul or the trident. The base represents Bramha the creator and in the mid region represents Vishnu, the creator. On either side of this tree, are present two parrots and a Swastik in the centre. All these symbols indicate good luck for the wedding that came after this ceremony. This is depicted below.
8. Acharya Chauka: Acharya Chauka is also an Aipan made for the occasion of a marriage ceremony, especially for the kulaguru or the priest to stand on it while performing the marriage rituals from bridegroom's side, at the time of dhuliarghya. This indicated a special prominence given to the priest. This chauka has a Swastik made on it that is red in colour. Other auspicious symbols such as the lotus, a bell, a conch shell, or 2 parrots are painted around the Swastik.
9. Janeo: Janeo Aipan is drawn on the occasion of 'Janeo' or the thread ceremony, of a boy. The pattern has 15 dots in the centre. Seven stars within a hexagon the six sided geometric figure, forms the main symbol of this occasion specifically Aipan. The seven stars represent the Sapt Rishis. Around this floral designs with dots are drawn. This is depicted below.
10. Bhadra: The Bhadra form of Aipan is drawn in the puja room and also at the time of a yajna. The Bhadra with 12 dots is known as Bindu Bhadra. The number of dots can vary and with it, the patterns too differ, like 19 Bindu Bhadra, 24 Bindu Bhadra and 36 Bindu Bhadra etc. This is depicted below.
11. Jyuti: For the trouble free execution of any task or ceremony that one undertakes, sixteen mother goddesses are worshipped after worshipping Lord Ganesha These are known as ‘Matrika’ or ‘Jeev Matrika’ or ‘Jyuti’ in Kumaoni. This is depicted below.
12. Namkarna Chauki: Namkarna Chauki is the naming ceremony of a newborn, held on the eleventh day of the birth. Namkarna Chauki Aipan is drawn in the courtyard, where the Surya Darshan (a baby's first exposure to the sun) is performed. Sometimes this is also known as Surya Darshan Chauki. This is depicted below.
13. Aipan at the main entrance: The Aipan drawn at the main entrance of a home is usually very beautiful. At times, the Vasundhara may also be combined with this design to give it a more elegant look. This is depicted below.
14. Lakshmi Yantra: In the hills of Kumaon as in other parts of India, the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, is worshipped during the festival of Diwali. Before the idol of Goddess Lakshmi is placed on the spot where the Puja is to take place, the Lakshmi Yantra is drawn on the floor with ochre colour (Geru) and rice paste (Biswar). This represents a seat for the goddess. The center point of this Yantra is marked by a dot or a flower, which symbolizes the Universe. It is enclosed by two triangles, which form a star with six points. The upper triangle represents Shiva and the lower one, Shakti. The triangle is surrounded by six or eight lotuses. The outer circle can contain sixteen lotuses. The lotuses represent the moon, stars, the home and wealth. There are usually other circular designs around the central design. The circles are surrounded by lines on the four sides signifying doors known as "Bhupur". They symbolize the Earth. The entire Aipan is adorned at various points with Lakshmi's footprints.
Below the Yantra has depicted two pujas "asanas" or seats for the couple who perform the Laxmi puja. Alternatively, these seats could be meant for the head of the household and the priest who conducts the ceremony. In most Kumaoni households instead of a clay or metal statue of Lakshmi, sugarcane is cut and placed crosswise. Traditional attire like a lehenga (long skirt) and Odhni (stole/shawl) adorn the sugarcane to make it represent the feminine form.
15. Bhuiyan: This is drawn on the outer side of a ‘Soop’ or a bamboo winnow. This is generally a sketch of a bad, or a very ugly looking demon. On the inner side of the ‘Soop’ sketches of Lakshmi-Naranyan are drawn.
Bhuiyan refers to the negative and harmful powers or a bad omens. On a particular day, this ‘Soop’ is beaten with a sugarcane stick in every room and corner of the home. This ritual is performed to oust and chase away any bad omens or negative powers that might have been collected in the home and to welcome Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, the God and Goddess of happiness and prosperity into the home. This is depicted below.
An ugly demon on the backside of a ‘soop’ (Image source)
Lord Vishnu and Godess Lakshmi drawn on the innner side of the ‘soop’. (Image source)
Modern day usage:
Though Aipan is a traditional decorative art form used extensively to decorate floors and walls at places of worship and entrances of homes they are contemporarily used in souvenirs, coasters, vases, greeting cards, jewellery boxes, key rings, bookmarks, wall tiles and as decoration on terracotta products. These attractive patterns and motifs are also found in textile products like shawls, tablecloths and bed sheets.