Hindu Culture
Rangoli

Background
Rangoli is a traditional Indian art form dating back several centuries; in fact, it is said that it can be traced back as far as the Indus valley Civilisation. The word "rangoli" derives from Sanskrit, and it means "the expression of artistic vision through the joyful use of colour" or "design in colour." It is done at the entrance of households or a temple (mandirs) on auspicious occasions, especially during the festival of light called Diwali, and is hence a welcoming gesture. It also gives that little extra touch of class and beauty. The colourful patterns on the doorsteps are not just for decorative purposes; they embody a deep religious spirit too. They are often dedicated to various deities, for example, Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, or Ganesha the God of good beginnings. Mainly women practise these decorations and sacred patterns. It is an art form that is passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter.
Colours and Materials
Designs are set out to occupy a square, rectangle or circle to show marked protection from all sides. In the olden days, rangolis were made with rice flour and grains. The main idea behind this was to feed the ants, birds and animals as one's good deed of the day. Other natural colours were also used - turmeric for golden yellow, red and black of earth, blue of indigo and crushed leaves for green. Many other mediums such as fresh flower petals, rice grains and pulses can also be used. Nowadays, powder colours are most commonly used as can be seen in the rangoli displayed here at the British Museum. Various bright colours are employed in this art. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but they are also fundamentally therapeutic and they have many meanings behind them too. The significance of colours used is explained below:
¨ WHITE purity, coolness and safety. It is often used to make fine lines too.

¨ RED strength and energy.
¨ YELLOW richness.
¨ GREEN harmony and balance, nature.

¨ BLUE vastness and happiness, peace
¨ ORANGE sacrifice.

The technique requires much practice - a small amount of coloured powder is taken between the forefinger and thumb, and then it is gently released to form fine lines, which gradually make up the entire pattern.

Floor Painting in India
Floor painting varies in style and meaning from region to region, and is recognised by different names throughout the states of India:

+ BENGAL - Alpana
+ ORISSA - Thunti
+ SOUTH OF INDIA - Kolam
+ MAHARASHTRA -Rangoli
+ GUJARAT - Sathio
+ BIHAR - Aripan
+ RAJASTHAN - Mandana

In some parts of India, it is a daily ritual for the ladies of the house to make "kolam" and "mandana" in the courtyard. They sprinkle fresh cow dung on the recently swept ground and execute the designs with white rice powder. As well as inaugurating the day, it is also seen as an offering to the earth we live on.

Traditionally, most rangoli patterns are geometrical. The designs are drawn with dots on a graph, which are then linked with flowing lines to form a pattern.

Significance of Symbols
The main structure of the rangoli is in the shape of a square. There are many other geometrical forms such as circles and triangles contained within the square, hence the connection to maths. Everything has a shape, and maths of shape is called geometry. Circles, rectangles, squares, triangles, octagons, hexagons and so on are all geometric shapes.

The beauty of the rangoli lies in the fact that it cannot be preserved for long periods of time as there is no fixed base. It is an art to be enjoyed and appreciated for the moment until it is finally swept away to create a new space. In this way, this special ornamental art has its own charm and it continues to be a unique source of beauty as it is ever evolving and inspirational, thus allowing one's imagination to flow incessantly.