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Sunday, June 24, 2007


Before we go to the different types of Rangolis or kolam lets have a brief introduction of what the rangolis is and also the when, why and where of it. This article intends to bring to you'll the Evolution of the Rangoli or Kolam.

What is Rangoli?
'Rangoli' is a sanskrit word which means a creative expression of art through the use of color.
When,Why and How is Rangoli applied?
In ancient India, rangolis were used to decorate the entrances of homes, a floor-painting which provided a warm and colourful welcome to visitors.
In a rangoli, powdered colors are sprinkled on cleaned and dusted floors to form decorations. The colored powder is usually applied 'freehand' by letting it run from the gap formed by pinching the thumb and the forefinger. One important point is that the entire pattern must be an unbroken line, with no gaps to be left anywhere for evil spirits to enter and thus are they prevented from entering the inside of the home.
In Indian culture, all guests and visitors occupy a very special place, It is said “ Atithi Devo Bhava” (Guest is equal to God) and a rangoli is an expression of this warm hospitality.
The Diwali festival is widely celebrated with rangoli, since at this time, people visit each other's homes to exchange greetings and sweets. It is a tradition to paint a Rangoli at the entrance of one's home during Diwali. This is done because it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi visits well-lit and decorated homes on Diwali to bless its members. Therefore, people make colorful Rangolis to welcome this benign Goddess and to usher in the New Year with color in their life. Rangoli also has a religious significance, enhancing the beauty of the surroundings and spreading joy and happiness all around. Women learn to make Rangolis from an early age and it is almost like a family heirloom passed through the ages. Rangoli Patterns are usually designed to resemble Nature like Peacocks, flowers, swans, mangos and creepers. Traditionally the colors were derived from natural sources like barks of trees, flowers and roots. However today they are synthetically manufactured. Besides that a host of other ingredients like rice, chili, turmeric, cereal and pulses too are used to further enhance the beauty of the Rangoli and to create a 3-D effect. Rangolis can be vivid three-dimensional art complete with shadings or they can be the traditional plain, yet as beautiful, two-dimensional designs.

What is a Kolam?
In the South of India Rangoli is known as Kolam. Kolams are thought to bestow prosperity to the homes. For special occasions limestone and red brick powder to contrast are also used. Though kolams are usually done with dry rice flour, for longevity, dilute rice paste or even paints are also used. Modern interpretations have accommodated chalk, and the latest "technology" in kolams are actually vinyl stickers (that defeat the original purpose). When people get married, the ritual kolam patterns created for the occasion can stretch all the way down the street. Patterns are often passed on generation to generation, mother to daughter.

Rangoli in front of house during Pongal
Kolam is not so flamboyant as its other Indian contemporary, Rangoli, which is extremely colorful. However, the beauty of a kolam, bordered with blood-red "kaavi" (red brick paste) is also considered exceptional.
Evolution of the Rangoli(Kolam)
Techniques have evolved over time and now the use of the cone, sieve and funnel are popular. A few very talented artists actually throw the color, and the end results are stunning works of art. The materials can be virtually anything that fancies the rangoli maker, but more traditionally it is 'chiroli' marble dust to which pigments have been added. Finely ground maize (corn) flour which has been subsequently 'dyed', grass and gravel have also been used. Petals of flowers, grains and pulses have been used to form attractive and unusual designs.There have been some innovations in the Rangoli making it look more exotic and increasing the aesthetic beauty of the Rangoli. Some of the rare varieties are the floating rangoli, 3-D kolam, funnel kolam, stencil kolam, portrait kolam and bubble kolam

Floating Rangolis/Kolams
What is a floating Rangoli? This is a new and interesting concept in Rangoli. It was discovered by some artistic people that water kept in a large Urn or Urali(a traditionally used wide mouthed flat & thick & flat bottomed pan vessel usually used for cooking (can be metal or made of Terracota or clay also) also becomes a surface for putting rangolis. So the powder is dropped in an artistic way on this surface to make patterns, Colors added give the picture beauty. Even Flowers can be added. But there is one condition though, the Urn or Urali cannot be moved or shaken for if it is shaken then the entire work of art is mixed with the water. As the powder or flowers float in the water they are called as floating rangolis.
The powders used for floating rangolis are not the usual rangoli powders that are available in the market as they may dissolve in the water so a different type of powder has to be used which will easily float in the water. A different base is used to make these rangoli powders, If the base is light like saw dust, it can be used to make floating rangoli on the surface of stagnant water. If a rangoli is to be made on water, the color should preferably be insoluble in water. I guess, Rangoli competitions held all over India have spurted the youth to discover new and innovative ways of applying Rangoli, Thus, giving it a whole new dimension.
Here’s an interesting read on floating rangolis (excerpts from an article in the newspaper):
Those days have gone when Rangoli used to be done with simple dots and a free hand. After years of practice, an artist in Rajkot has come up with varieties of 'Rangoli' that has left even the president of India stunned during his visit to Rajkot.
Rangoli on water, under water and in the middle of water is something that artist Pradeep Dave is an expert at. This year, he tried something new and has balanced a Rangoli on Peacock's feathers. But what has taken everyone by surprise is the Rangoli that balances itself on air.According to Dave, this is not magic but a fine combination of Art and Science. Dave has not taken any formal education on making Rangoli but it was just through practice and the application of Science that has help him through his various experiments of making varieties of Rangoli. It was in 1986 that he first made a Rangoli inside water. Then after years of practice he could make it on surface of water and after three years of research he could finally do it in middle of water.
According to Dave, doing Rangoli at the bottom of water is easy, but doing it on the surface of water is the toughest job because the entire Rangoli is done without help of any support or base drawing. A Rangoli in water takes a minimum of eight to nine hours depending upon the detailing of the drawing. This New Year, Dave has made a total of 13 varieties of Rangoli. "After three years of reasearch I was successful in making a rangoli between water.According to science, things either flow or sink in water.But this rangoli neither flows nor sinks.I have named it Trishanku. Every year, I try to make a new rangoli," said Dave. One can see a Taj Mahal inside water or a portrait of Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Amitabh Bachchhan and even Narendra Modi. Where the Taj Mahal took around 27 hours for Dave to complete the portraits have taken some 20 hours each. A Rangoli done in the shape of a carpet can be easily misunderstood as a real one. Dave knows some 45 different types of Rangoli, which includes on the walls and even on the roof. Rangoli done inside water can remain intact for around 15 days if preserved properly. Dave made a rangoli of the president of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam inside water , during his visit to Rajkot, he was not only surprised but was stunned to see a fine combination of art and science. The rangolis made by Dave have been kept open for public and every day a large number of people flock his residence to see these rangolis. Some could not believe even with their naked eyes that the rangoli has been done with the help of gypsum colours or a poster placed inside the water. "These are very good.It is so difficult to make an ordinary rangoli and we wonder how he has made a rangoli on water," said Disha Mehta, a visitor. "I never thought that it is possible to make a rangoli inside water.It is good. All colours and shades are also very nice," said Beena Joshi, another visitor. According to Dave, there is no technique but simple rules of science that he follows. All that he uses is gypsum colours and oil for making rangoli inside water. While the Rangoli placed on feather and in air is done with extremely fine colours that weighs less that the feathers. Dave through his art now aims to enter his name in the Limca books of Records and Guinness Book of World Records. (ANI)

3-D Rangolis/Kolams

3-dimensional. A graphic display of depth, width, and height. There are several ways to make a rangoli like using colored petals of flowers arranged on ground OR on still water. Rangoli is also drawn on sticky hot wax using sandy powders (where it is impossible to swipe the color powder once it is filled) and immersed under shallow water to get the 3D magnified effect. Some artists use the 3-D effect for borders alone while others create beautiful designs using grains and beads entirely. Coloured powder can be directly used for fancy decorations, but for detailed work, generally the material is a coarse grained powder base into which colors are mixed. The base is chosen to be coarse so that it can be gripped well and sprinkled with good control. The base can be sand, marble dust, saw dust brick dust or other materials. The colors generally are very fine pigment podwers like gulal/aabir available for Holi or colors (mentioned above) specially sold for rangoli in South India. Various day to day colored powders like indigo used for cloth staining, spices like turmeric, chili, rawa, rice flour, flour of wheat etc are also variously used. Powder colors can be simply mixed into the base. If the base is light like saw dust, it can be used to make floating rangoli on the surface of stagnant water. Sometimes saw-dust or sand is soaked into waterbased color and dried to give various tints. However that probably cannot be used on water. If a rangoli is to be made on water, the color should preferably be insoluble in water.

Funnel Rangolis/Kolams
If you find it hard to make diwali rangoli designs with hand, use a small nozzled funnel, control the flow of the filled rangoli with thumb or middle finger, and make desired designs easily. Do not use pure colours without rangoli in this way because they will not fall through easily. If you find it hard to make diwali rangoli designs with hand, use a small nozzled funnel, control the flow of the filled rangoli with thumb or middle finger, and make desired designs easily. Do not use pure colours without rangoli in this way because they will not fall through easily.

Tibetan Sand Painting or Mandala Sand Painting
This Floor Painting style is a part of Tibetan Tantric Art tradition. The Tibetans call it dul-tson-kyil-khor, which literally means "mandala of colored powders." Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks. The heartbreaking part of this ritual is that after days of determined hard work and perseverance the very monks who work on these paintings have to destroy them. The beginning of mandala sand painting is an auspicious occasion which is marked by a ceremonial ritual. In this opening ceremony the lamas, or Tibetan priests, gather in front of the painting the site and call forth the supreme power of goodness. This is done by the means of chanting, music, and mantra recitation. In the first day of the painting process the outline of the painting is drawn on a wooden board. In the consequent days the outlines are layersed with different colored sands. The sand is poured from a metal funnel called chak-pur. This funnel is an important part of the tradition too. The monks involved in the apintings hold a funnel in their hand and run a metal rod on its surface. The vibrations caused by the metal rod makes the sand flow like water from the funnel mouth. These paintings follow the prescribed Mandala motifs. A Mandala is a symbolic geometric pattern, which is a metaphysical or symbolical representation of the cosmos, a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective. The center of the Mandala can be used as the focal point of meditation. In fact the complex but symmetric web of structures around the center draws one’s eyes towards the focal point. Make dots on the ground using a small amount of flour. Connect the dots by using small amounts of flour to trickle between your thumb and forefinger but for children or people who find it difficult to use hands to do it or aren’t familiar with making rangoli before u can use a large funnel and tap the flour out of the end of the funnel to make the line. There are many items you can use to make a funnel, depending on your resources. For example:- Rework a sundae spoon by bending the handle inwards to form a funnel or tube, scoop the sand using the spoon side and tilt it to pour the sand through the tube. - Or glue a straw to a sundae spoon flaring it out into the spoon so that it catches all the sand in the spoon. - Or fashion your own sand painting tool out of soft metal like tin or aluminium or plastic or wood.

1. Choose a simple design and the appropriate colours.
2. You will need the following basic ingredients: A hard board of size 30 × 30 cm; Pencil/Chalk; Ruler; Spoons; Small funnel, with a very thin spout; sieve;
3. For even spreading, make a small cone or tube, and at the tip place a thin sieve/gauze. This will help considerably in even spreading of colours and minimise wastage. A stiff paper cone is ideal for margins, dots and borders.
4. Buy rangoli colours from Indian shops or from India. Alternatively, make them yourself.
5. Spread the colours by hand, tube or cone as necessary to make your rangoli.
P.S. I made a mention of the Tibetan Sand paintings as the Funnel Kolam is an idea inspired by this.

Bubble Rangoli/Bubble Kolam
Kolam as connected bubbles
The trick is to use the symmetry of the kolam. The typical symmetry used is the cyclic symmetry, as shown in the above figure. This is also the most complex and the most impressive one, apart from being the most common (the others are reflection symmetry between the halves). This reduces the problem of remembering the whole kolam, to one of remembering just one quarter of it. Of course, nothing stops us from creating a completely asymmetrical one, but I haven't seen it in daily use (maybe I should explore more of that, now that it is easy with this program).
I think this symmetry part has been used extensively by the kolam creators. But, this is not enough. You need more patterns to make kolam drawing as simple as connecting points with line. If you see the above figure, I've specifically shaded the closed areas that contain the dots ('Pullie' in Tamil). This way you can see clearly that a kolam is just a connected network of many 'bubbles' (if you can call these shaded parts so). This is important because, this way you only have to join different dots creatively, and the regulation part of weaving the curve around them could be automated. This is not to say that joining dots is easy, because traditionally only certain dot-connections are considered beautiful. You are free to explore, but don't blame me, if your mom gives an indifferent glance to your masterpiece. The above are some frequent and pleasing connections of dots.
You can see the connecting lines in green in the above figure. The darker shaded bubbles, is only to highlight that, if a dot is connected to one or more dots, the bubble will be connected similarly. I have highlighted one vertex each for degree 1,2,3 and 4.

Stencil Rangolis
This craft involves the cutting of an intricate stencil depicting scenes ... the use of this paper stencil is then made in creating a rangoli. The stencil Rangoli is a welcome addition for those people who don’t know how to put Rangoli or who have never attempted to do it but still want the real effect of a Rangoli. Since you are using colors it still stands as an ideal source of colorful welcome to the festive celebrations. For the beginners who want a beautiful rangoli can do so by getting themselves a rangoli color-and-stencil kit, now easily available, also available are roller stencils just put the color or plain white rangoli powder inside the pipe of the roller whose one side is open and one side is closed and roll it on the floor for beautiful patterns.

Portrait Rangoli
Portrait Rangoli means, portraits of people drawn with rangoli powders, it can be Portraits of Gods, people sometimes inanimate objects or nature. Portrait Rangoli looks very realistic and is more like a drawing on paper. We can see some portrait rangoli on the streets, where artists paint pictures of God on the pavement and collect money for their art.

Rangoli has evolved into many a beautiful forms. If any of the readers know of any more different types of rangoli please do share with me.


  1. sukanya ur write up on kolams made interesting reading.thank u.i would be very happy if u could get the exact method ofmaking kolam under water.the base used to stick the color at the bottom andthe colors used so that we can also learn a new art.may i also have the artists address vijayshree v2 do reply.thankyou.

  2. hi

    thanks for the detailed information on rangolis. i make sanskar bharati rangolis, kolams, flower kolams (pookalams) Mr. Pradeep Dave's infromation is new to me. where can i find the artwork. is there any site of his.


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