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EveryDay Mehndi Rangoli Instructions and Information
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Thursday, 12 May 2005
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Rangoli (ran-goal-i, also known as Alpana, Kolam and by other names) is a traditional art of decorating courtyards and walls of Indian houses, places of worship and sometimes eating places as well. The powder of white stone, lime, rice flour and other cheap paste is used to draw intricate and ritual designs. Each state of India has its own way of painting Rangoli.

One characteristic of Rangoli is that it is painted by commoners. On some special occasions it is painted in every home, with or without formal training in Rangoli art. The art is typically transferred from generation to generation and from friend to friend. Popular magazines publish new designs of Rangoli every week and on special occasions there are Rangoli contests.

Women use their bare fingers or a brush to create various designs from sandstone powder or grain-flour. Sometimes colors and petals are used in addition to flour paste. Some women are so skilled with their fingers that they can create figures of deities, chariots, temples, etc., on the finely layered floor. Petals of various flowers, such as oleanders, cosmos, zenia, chrysanthemums, and green leaves provide the artist the ability to work out various patterns and colors. In the evenings of festive occasions, when oil lamps are lit, and the atmosphere is cool and pleasant, such floral designs create the atmosphere of a well-planned divine garden. This Rangoli garden surrounds the sacred spot where pooja (prayer) is performed or a child is seated for his or her birthday, naming ceremony or thread ceremony. Newly-weds also receive guests in such decorated surroundings when the wedding celebrations are ongoing.
Most of the Rangoli designs are motifs of plants, flowers, leaves such as coconut, lotus, mango, and ashwath (peepal leaf), the animals such as cows, elephants, and horses, and the birds like eagles and swans. There are geometrical designs as well. When drawn with fingers, these acquire different dimensions on their own.

Girls and wives compete with each other to draw a new design every time, even when there are no prizes to be given. They believe that the gods are fond of cleanliness and things of beauty, and this is one household art meant for propitiating deities.

EveryDay Mehndi Rangoli Instructions

How to Make Your Rangoli

Your Rangoli designs will exist within the context of space and time. Your design is created to exist from creation to destruction within a 24-hour period…then to be recreated so that the cycle may begin again. The space can be a small altered space created within your home, on your doorstep, on your porch, in a large field or large or small yard. Your consideration of the context of space and time will help you to define your design.

Surface is your next consideration. A flat surface on which the powders and other materials can be placed and not obscured or distorted is important. Dirt, concrete and wooden boards are good surfaces on which to create your Rangoli. Grass and surfaces that will absorb the paste and powders are not good surfaces.

Developing your design: There are two ways to think about the development of your design. One perfectly legitimate way to create your design is to simply freehand it. You have your powders to create the colors and paste to create outlines for your designs. Sketching out what you want to do will be helpful but is not required. Beautiful designs can be created by simply putting down what you are inspired to create. Outlining the design with the paste is one way to define and separate the colored areas. But if putting some colors side by side is what you wish to do…then do just that.

The other way to create your design is to plan it out. You can sketch your design out on grid paper to help you measure the exact placement of the elements of your design. Then draw the grid (using measured and spaced dots) onto your selected space and surface. You create your design by connecting various dots to form shapes. If you are creating a design yourself, a good place to start is at the point that will be considered the center of your design. That allows you to place your other design elements according to their relationship to the center of the design. This helps you to visually perceive and manage your design. It also helps you in a practical sense. It helps you to work your design from the center outward and minimizes the chances of messing up parts of your design that you have completed with your hands, sleeves or feet.

Lines, shapes and colors will ultimately define your design. You will repeat certain lines, shapes and colors as you create your design. Drawing out the lines that define the shapes and areas that will ultimately contain the colors is accomplished with your kit by using your rice powder. You can use the powder dry or mix it with water into a paste. Dry, you can sprinkle the powder to form the lines by holding the powder between your fingers and draw the lines. You can put your rice powder or paste into the cone provided with your kit and squeeze the powder out of the hole you will cut in the tip and draw your lines in that manner. If you have drawn your grid and "sketched" out your design, you will then just follow those lines you have already created. Think of the bold black lines of coloring books and how they define the spaces to be colored in. That is the role of the rice powder and paste.

Once you have drawn out and defined all of your spaces and shapes with the rice powder, it is time to use color to further define your design. Decide what colors will go into which spaces and shapes and which spaces will be left without color. If all of the spaces in your Rangoli will be filled with color mark each space with a symbol that will allow you to know what color is to fill that space. If some spaces in your Rangoli will have color and other spaces will not, mark the spaces that are to have no color with a symbol and mark the spaces that will be filled with color with a symbol for that particular color. If you are using colored powders to fill some spaces and perhaps flower petals to define other spaces, determine how you will differentiate each with a symbol. Making a key for yourself is a good way to keep it all organized without having to rely upon memory.

Then proceed to fill in your spaces with color provided by your powder or flower petals or whatever you have chosen to create color. Various items are excellent to add color and texture. Flower petals have been mentioned. Others are pebbles, different colored flour or cornmeal or beans etc. While pebbles and other items like sea glass can be used, remember that one element of your Rangoli is that it will be walked in or danced into the earth…or insects and the wind will carry them off. That is an important element. So use those things that will resist serving that purpose sparingly.

Final touches to your design can be provided with the addition of candles and incense. Providing the element of light dancing and reflecting on your Rangoli and the aroma of favorite incense can make a powerful presentation as well as add meaning to your Rangoli.

Ultimately your Rangoli is indeed a painted prayer. You are its creator and the provider of this sacred space. While designs to inspire you are created, dont be limited by them. Let the design within you surface and exist and be…because it was meant to be created by you and could only be created by you at this particular time and for this particular space in this particular way.


Recap: What you need are:
A space
Time to create your Rangoli
A design concept
Rice flour
Rangoli colors
Fingers, brush, carrot bag, etc. for placing your rice flour and colors
The willingness to enjoy and benefit from this process

Optional things you can use:
Grid paper
Pencil or pen
Brush
Other grains or flour
Beans
Flower petals
Candles
Incense
Matches
Music
And anything else you want to add

That is it!!!

- Find the time
- define your space
- draw out your design
- define your spaces with rice powder/paste (or not)
- fill in spaces and shapes with colored powders
- create more color and texture in spaces with additional material
- light your candles and incense (optional)play your music (optional)
- dance your Rangoli into the ground (optional)
- allow your Rangoli to carry your prayers and meditations or thoughts/wishes/desires (rely upon it).

Remember that your Rangoli is about the process. There are many many things to be discovered, learned from and shared.

Enjoy!!!

Maureen
EveryDay Mehndi
www.everydayhenna.com

P.S. If you have any stories and/or pictures about your experience with your Rangoli that you would like to share with us or with others, please do. I would be honored to hear about them. And if you would like, will add them to the Rangoli section of our website for others to also share and appreciate.

Designs: see http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/rangoli/rangani.htm
 
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