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RANGOLI- The dainty paintings on floor

Floor paintings are an integral part of Indian tradition. These are made on auspicious occasions.They are a sign of welcome when drawn at the doorstep or threshold. In Gujarat, the art of floor painting is called Rangoli. It is now extremely popular in Maharashtra also. This domestic art was the exclusive reserve of women painters till recently.Now, many men are also making their presence felt in this traditional art. Decorating the floor in different parts of the house is believed to be a good omen. These designs are made with the aid of the simplest materials, mainly rice paste mixed with pigment or rock dust and some colours thrown into it. Though this art of painting is diminishing in some urban cities, it continues to remain attractive wherever created.

Rangoli designs used to be painted over the coating of cow dung to the floor. If it is not a mud floor then it is painted after washing the floor with water and is created while the floor is still wet. This art is aesthetically pleasing and has religious significance. The designs are symbolic and basically common to the whole country like: geometrical patterns, with lines, dots, squares, circles, triangles; the swastik, lotus, trident, fish, conch-shell, foot-prints (supposed to be of Lord Krishna), Sri Chakra, creepers, leaves, trees, flowers, animals and anthropomorphic figures. These motifs are modified to fit in with the local images and rhythms. An important point is that the entire graph must be an unbroken line, with no gaps to be left anywhere between the line for evil spirits to enter.

For religious purposes, several yantra designs are used. These are supposed to influence the onlooker and infuse divine vibrations when watched intently. The origin of painting is traced to a moving legend recorded in the Chitralakshana, the earliest Indian treatise on painting. When the son of a King's high priest died, Brahma, Lord of the universe, asked the king to paint the likeness of the boy so that he may breathe life into him again. This is how, it is believed, the first painting was made. Another popular story is that God in one of his creative provocation extracted the juice from one of the mango trees as paint, and drew the figure of a woman so beautiful that it put the heavenly maidens to shame.

Rangolis are known by different names in different parts of the country; Alpana in Bengal, Aripana in Bihar, Madana in Rajasthan, Kolams in Tamilnadu, Chowkpurana in Uttar Pradesh, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh and Ossan or jhunti in Orissa. In Himachal Pradesh, the Pahari women give a coating of cow dung to the floors that is beaten flat, and the painting begins while it is still damp. The paint, consisting of earth colours and rice paste mixed with dyes, is dropped onto the surface with the fingers closely pressed together. It is locally known as haugaiyan, while other terms like dehar, likhnu and chauk apply to specific forms of floor painting.