Traditionally the thresholds of Indian homes were decorated with colorful Rangoli patterns and intricate lines that lend a charming and welcoming note. Rangoli is considered an invitation for Goddess Mahalakshmi to adorn and bless the house. For thousands of years, Indian homes have been adorned with paintings by women who used to pray for the well being of their families and to protect their home from the evil eye.
The different regions of India have their own versions and variations on Rangoli patterns and designs. From the Rangoli kolam of South India to the Rangoli patterns with powders of different hues to the artistic alpana of Bengal, the range of Rangoli designs is wide.
Rangoli designs are created by women on the thresholds of their houses. Many a time it is an art that is passed down the generations. Rangoli is derived from the words - rang (color) and aavalli (row of colors). The Rangoli patterns in Western Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan are intricate and colorful.
Deft artists use powders in attractive colors to create Rangoli designs. Designs for rangolis usually draw inspiration from nature - leaves, mango, swans, peacocks, flowers and creepers.
The Bengali alpana Rangoli designs are created with crushed rice powder paste. Once the outlines are done, the alpanas are decorated with flower petals, grains and vermilion and dyed sawdust. Animals, flowers, leaves and geometrical shapes. form an important part of alpana Rangoli patterns.
The rangolis from Kerala are created with flowers such as marigolds, dahlias, roses, jasmines and chrysanthemums. During the festival of Onam, you can spot many a colorful and fragrant floral Rangoli. The Thumba flower is said to be an intrinsic part of this Rangoli design.
The Rangoli takes the form of the kolam in south India. Kolam designs are usually geometrical shapes that are drawn not only in front of houses but also in pooja rooms and during auspicious and religious occasions. A grid of dots is first created on the ground and deft fingers weave lines and curves of magic through this gridwork to form exquisite designs.
These dots are said to symbolize the hurdles that we face on this journey called life. Typical Rangoli kolam designs are single closed winding lines intricately woven around a grid of dots.
Early mornings in Tamil Nadu and other southern states will see the threshold being cleaned and adorned with a kolam pattern. Rangoli kolams are usually drawn with coarsely ground rice flour and is done with swift deft strokes. As legend goes, the rice flour is also food for ants. Red brick powder and colored Rangoli powder are used to enhance the kolams.
During the Tamil month of Marghazhi and on special occasions, the Rangoli kolams take on a festive note too. Kolams during the festival of Pongal are generously dotted with images of the overflowing pongal pot signifying prosperity and plenty. Some of the special Rangoli kolams are Navagraha kolam and Iswarya kolam.
If you are not very artistically inclined but yet want to adorn your house with traditional Rangoli designs, worry not! There are several stencils and tin rollers with intricate designs drilled on to their surface. These can be used to create Rangoli designs easily and quickly. Today you can also find kolam stickers that you can stick on to your doorstep.