The spectacular as well as joyous festival of Diwali, though known as the festival of lights, imbibes vibrancy and bright colors as a major part of this cultural extravaganza. In fact, days before the actual festival arrives, people begin to repaint and refurbish their homes as well as work places. One can see an array of multihued decorations being hung around residential as well as market places, right from strings of different shades of light bulbs to golden and silver colored streamers and flags. People wearing new clothes and shopping for gifts to present to their loved ones further add vivacity to the environment. However, amidst all this color and exuberance, the graceful, multihued, sometimes simple and at times complex, traditional rangoli patterns adorning the entrance of almost all Hindu homes stand out and give an ethnic feel to the celebrations.
The colorful art of drawing various rangoli patterns to decorate one's threshold is an ancient tradition followed across India. Due to the cultural as well as regional variations in the country, rangoli has come to be known by various different names, such as alpana, aripoma, or kolam. One can see various regional influences in different patterns of rangoli. Some special rangoli designs are taught by the elders of the households to the youngsters and thus are unique to that home and have been kept alive by passing from one generation to the other. The term 'Rangoli' has been derived by joining two words 'rang' and 'aavalli', which when loosely translated means 'a row of colors'. There are some basic principals of rangoli making that can be seen throughout the country. For example, they have a symmetrical, geometrical structure.
Significance of Rangoli in Diwali
The 'festival of lights' is mainly dedicated to the worshipping of Goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to be the bestower of wealth and prosperity, as per the Hindu religion. On this festival, people draw elaborate rangoli designs with special care on front porches as well as gateways of their homes, not just to welcome the friends and family members that visit, but also the divine Goddess herself. Rangolis are usually made by using colored chalk, rice powder, crushed limestone and flower petals. As such, there is no size limit set for how elaborate or constrained a rangoli design should be. The size of the rangoli is usually dictated by the availability of the flat empty space. Therefore, in larger cities, people typically make rangolis of a door mat size; however in larger houses like bungalows where there is no space constraint, a rangoli can be as massive as to cover the entire courtyard.
Different Rangoli Patterns
There are numerous varieties and intricacies in rangoli patterns. One can choose to draw simplest to most intricate patterns, depending on one's own talent as well as proficiency level in this art. A traditional rangoli is always made by hand, though sometimes people use stencils to draw the basic pattern. Once the base design is ready, it is filled with colors or flower petals. Today, one can get ideas of various patterns of Diwali rangolis from various home decor books and websites. These also provide elementary knowledge about basic rangoli making steps.
On Diwali, the rangoli patterns generally constitute of religious motifs or designs that represent the deity or the main concept of the festival. Rangolis depicting natural beauty, such as representations of swans, peacocks, fish, etc. are quite common during Diwali. Drawing patterns in Diwali also include the sun, moon, signs of the zodiac, Om, Swastik symbol, lighted Deepak, Shree, footsteps of Goddess Lakshmi, etc. Even while showcasing such diverse and varied themes, the basic structure of rangoli is kept in the geometric shape because it represents infiniteness of time. Lotus is a representation of Goddess Lakshmi; hence, it is incorporated in most Diwali rangolis in one or the other form.