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Styles of Floor Art Painting in India

Floor art paintings have existed since the beginning of time, and not undergone much change since. Different cultures and civilizations are centred around these paintings, although they go by several names. These designs have both religious and spiritual meanings attached to them. 

Ancient myths and legends were so deep-rooted in the blood of every human that they transformed into symbols conveying a way of life. This fusion between significance and symbols in various cultures has given rise to floor art paintings. The earliest evidence of Floor Art Paintings came from the seals of Mohenjodaro, Indus Valley Civilization. 

Each state in India has a unique name for their method of floor art painting. The most common floor paintings are the Rangoli in Maharashtra, Mandana in Rajasthan, Alpona in West Bengal, Kolam in Tamil Nadu and Kalamezhuthu in Kerala. Additionally, we have the Chowk in Uttar Pradesh, Aripana in Bihar, Pakhamba in Manipur, Likhnu in Himachal Pradesh and Satiya in Gujarat.

There are two major types of floor art patterns, namely the Floral and Geometric. Floral designs have a socio-religious meaning while the geometric designs are based on some tantric and vaastu ideologies. The motifs include flowers, trees, leaves, animals, birds and abstract designs. Geometric floor art patterns such as the circle, triangle and square, hold symbolic meanings. The circle defines a boundary of the universe. The square represents us as a society, it is a artificial phenomenon. The upwards triangle reminds us of a mountain, symbolising progress and stability. The downward triangle represents the transient unstable physical elements of life. Thus we can deduce that the floor art paintings were considered a crucial part in deciding the trajectory of these cultures. 

Rangoli in Maharashtra

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Rangoli is the name of the floor art made in the state of Maharashtra. It is a decorative design created at the entrance of your home to welcome guests and is said to bring in health, wealth and prosperity into your life. 

Some households initiate this process every morning while the rest of the families save their colours and materials for special occasions such as birthdays and festivals. This tradition of Rangoli making has been passed down from one generation to another, mostly practised by the women in the family as a bonding activity.

Colour is the most important feature of the Rangoli, which can be achieved through multiple mediums such as flowers, rangoli or chalk powder, coloured rice, lentils, rice powder and epsom salt. Most Rangolis are created free hand, however, for a more precise and clean look, one could opt to use tools and stencils as well. 

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Mandana floor art in Rajasthan

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Diwali is a widely celebrated festival of lights in the state of Rajasthan, during which the women of the families love to come together and make Mandanas outside their homes. The floor art mixture is prepared by mixing cow dung with clay, the outlines are made using chalk.

The design primarily focuses on non-geometric shapes and figures of animals such as peacocks, tigers, monkeys and cats. The women love using already existing elements of nature to create their floor art rather than buy synthetic products. For example, brushes are put together using natural, organic components like hair and twigs. Circles and triangles are drawn using loose threads.

The basic design begins with dots or points. Three points make up a triangle, four points make a square and so on. Asymmetrical patterns can be depicted by plotting an odd number of dots on the floor. Mandana art can have no end, since any point can be connected to another point to create an extension. The central motif is big, and is surrounded by a few smaller motifs. 

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Alpona Floor Art in West Bengal

Image source: The Better India

Alpona floor art created in West Bengal is practised by the women of the families, majorly during the festival of Makar Sankranti and not on a daily basis. Since it is only made occasionally, they find it necessary to cover a large surface area of the floor into their artwork and pride themselves on the extent of the art. 

A typical Alpona art work is drawn as concentric circles with a central motif. They design patterns using flowers, millets, kitchen utensils and some farming tools. Chalk powder is typically used to mark an outline and colour is filled with rice, leaves and flowers. 

A colour scheme is chosen to begin with, such as black and yellow or red and beige, as the contrasting colours highlight the design. 

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Kolam floor art in Tamil Nadu

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Kolam floor art is made as an everyday ritual in Tamil Nadu as it is said to protect the house from evil. It is done as a straight, unbroken line forming loops and circles. Each enclosure has a dot in the centre which represents the Goddess, which serves as a symbol of fertility. The dots in Kolam symbolise blood, which is a mark of life. This floor art style is made with bright bold colours such as red, white and black. 

Earlier, Kolam as a traditional Indian floor art form, was a tradition in the majority of Tamil Nadu but now its popularity is rapidly dwindling. The older generations are losing touch with the patterns and designs which has resulted in its decline. Some say urbanisation is to blame but we cannot say for sure. 

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Kalamezhuthu floor art in Kerala 

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Kalamezhuthu is a kind of floor art painting originated in Kerala and is majorly done in temples. This art form requires loud, bold colours that fit into the theme of aggression shown by the Gods and deities. They are usually shown as holding a weapon in their hands. The eyes of the deity are painted at the very end, to symbolise that the painting comes to life after they “open their eyes”.  

Natural dye is made using readily available material. For instance, paddy husk is burnt to make black, turmeric is used as yellow, rice powder for white, grounded leaves for green and vermillion for red. The floor art when completed gives a three dimensional effect which complements the idea that the painting comes to life.

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In conclusion 

There exist a plethora of Indian floor art, each style unique to the region they belong to. What ties them all together is the fact that they are all used as a source of protection against evil. They are all domestic art forms taught from one generation to another, they are not included in the formal education curriculums in schools or art institutions. Lastly, these floor art forms are endangered and pose a great risk of being lost and forgotten. Hence, taking steps to ensure their revival is of utmost importance today. 

To learn more about art forms, download the rooftop app from Google Play or App Store to stay updated on our upcoming art events and workshops. Stay tuned to rooftop blogs and follow us on @rooftop_app.   

By Freya Bulsara

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