Friday, August 20, 2010

The story of Rangoli

Friday, August 20, 2010
Many years ago, I spent six months travelling in India and Nepal with my now husband Ben. At the time I had qualified from college and was working as a graphic designer and illustrator. I had lots of expectations about what India would be like and had always wanted to go there. But as anyone will tell you - India is something that you have to experience to fully understand. It gets underneath your skin in a good way!

My senses were completely bombarded! My first memories are of the intense heat, pungent smells and crazy soundtrack of parping horns and Hindi music. I was surrounded by vibrant colours and elaborate decoration that seemed to cover every surface.

This is a country steeped in history and ritual is a part of everyday life. One of the rituals that I came to love was the drawing of designs on the doorsteps of houses by the women and girls of the household. These drawings are particularly popular in Southern India and are called Rangoli or Kolam. It was while we were staying in Hampi that I learned how to draw my first Rangoli. You begin by constructing an isometric grid using pinches of salt. Then you join the dots using a mixture of ground rice powder to create your designs. During religious festivals, these drawings are coloured in with brightly coloured powders.

I came across some great pictures on Flickr which were taken by a Belgian lady called Catherine. Below she describes her love of these designs -

My prefered kolams are not the big, elaborate ones, but those ones, drawn sometimes in haste but always with love, by the housewife or one of her daughters *each early morning* after having cleaned and washed the doorsteps - one of the lovely aspects of south Indian culture...
(Quoting some sentences from the Wiki page "Every morning in southern India, millions of women draw kolams on the ground with white rice powder. Through the day, the drawings get walked on, rained out, or blown around in the wind; new ones are made the next day. Every morning before sunrise, the floor is cleaned with water, the universal purifier, and the muddy floor is swept well for an even surface".
On festive occasions, colourful and elaborate "rangolis" are drawn instead of those humble and often simple "kolams", but it's the latter ones that I really prefer.

It was India that inspired a career change for me. On returning to Ireland, I enrolled in college to study jewellery design. When I set up my business in 1998, Rangoli seemed like the perfect name. The rest is my on-going history...

My next post is all about the bling - Bollywood influence, richly elaborate wedding costumes and over the top accessories to die for. Although my Rangoli style is 'Less is more', I still love the opulence and glamour of Indian attire. I think that there is a Bollywood princess inside all of us!

I'd love to hear your feedback so drop me a line!
Images of Rangolis by Catherine - see full set on Flickr -
Image above by Tariq Tahir - see more images on Flickr -

Image of Taj Mahal via WeHeartIt


Anonymous said...

You're right, India does have TONS of history....but come on man, if you've been to any of the urban places, especially bangalore, which is where I live, people are a bit too busy , even women , to be drawing rangolis...I don't know much about rural areas, though.....

Aisling said...

Hi there - thanks for your comment!

Yes, most of the Rangolis we saw were in more rural areas of Southern India or in larger cities, more elaborate designs were drawn up for special festivals.

I understand that India is a country of great contrasts - wealthy versus poor, rural versus highly modern and populated cities. This is one of the most appealing qualities for me.

I hope you enjoy the blog!

Sapphires and Saffron said...

It is so nice to hear your story about your career change. I def. understand how India could have such a huge impact on you. Everytime I visit I want to go into fashion design, but I haven't had the courage like you to go back to school! But, I hope one day I do get that courage!!

Also, I just started a blog about Weddings and once I get to a rangoli post, I am def. going to keep you in mind.

Check it out-

Unknown said...

Thanks for the lovely comment - it really made my day! I've checked out your blog and love it - I'll be adding it to my favourites to check out regularly x