Rangoli – Colors of India


Color is the most important element of India. From bright colorful clothes to beautiful and creative paintings, pottery and handicrafts. From mouth watering Indian cuisines to the seasons and festivals, it all reflects the distinctive and rich culture and colorful spirit of the people of India.

Rangoli is basically floor painting using colored sand, flowers, clay lamps or rice. It is one such creative expression which is found in all parts of the country. Used mostly during festivals, Rangoli is an art of making attractive, innovative designs on the entrance of the house – as a symbol of welcoming guest. Indians also have a tradition of welcoming guests in grandeur. This can be seen during marriages and festivals.

Rangoli – Art of Creativity

The Story behind Rangoli

According to a legend recorded in Chitra Lakshana, the earliest treatise on Indian painting, a king and his kingdom were steeped in sorrow at the death of the high priest’s son. Everybody prayed to Lord Brahma, who moved by the prayers, asked the king to paint a portrait of the boy on the floor so that he could breathe life into it. And with that the art of floor painting came to life.

The different names of the word ‘Rangoli’

The word Rangoli is derived from to the ancient language of sanskrit. The creative expression of art through the use of Rang(Color)‘ is ‘Rangoli’. Rangoli is an intricate part of Indian culture and festivals. Throughout the country, it is named differently according to the regional language. In North India, it is called ‘Chowkpurana’ whereas in the South it’s called ‘Kolam’. In West Bengal it is called ‘Alpana’, in Bihar it is ‘Aripana’ and in Rajasthan it is called ‘Madana’.

Traditions in North and Central India


Rangoli seems to have originated from the state of Maharashtra. It is made extensively during the Festival of Lights, Diwali. During Diwali, people take time for cleaning and decoration of their houses, in order to please the ‘Goddess of Wealth’. So, all the houses are lit up diyas and every nook and corner of the house is decorated.

People decorate their ‘puja ghar’ or ‘mandir'(which mean place of worship), their backyard, verandahs, rooms, kitchen, walls and entrance with beautifully designed Diwali torans and Rangolis. Some of the popular themes of Diwali rangoli are the signs of Om, swastik, leaves of Ashoka tree, mangal kalash, lighted diyas, shree, lotus and other flowers.

Besides that they also make fish, trees, rising sun, creepers, moon, stars, chakra, birds, elephants, dancing figures and human figures. Women draw the footsteps of Goddess Lakshmi entering into the home. This is the special Diwali rangoli for the entrance. It is considered auspicious and as it signifies showering of good luck and prosperity on the house and in the family.


In Bengal, the floor painting is called ‘Alpana’. The white designs known as Alpana are found on the patio, floors and walls and on large pots and vessels. Rice, the staple food of Bengal, is the medium used in Alpana and the motifs are created mainly by women. The technique of painting using the white flour is referred as gunrichitra or dhulichitra. The designs are quite similar to the kolams or rangoli in South India.

‘Atap’ rice, non-parboiled form of rice, is used to make the powder. The short-grained variety of ‘Atap’ is the widely used one. The rice is soaked in water to soften for 5 to 6 hours and it is then dried. The rice is then ground to a fine powder. This powder is used in Alpana. One of the common methods of drawing Alpans is by creating a paste from the rice powder. The rice powder is mixed with water to create a thick paste. A small piece of paper or cloth is folded to form a wick and is dipped in the rice paste to draw various designs. Occasionally, colored dyes are also added to the white paste.

Traditions in South India


Kolam is generally drawn at the entrance of a house or any other building. Dried rice flour or other types of white dust powder is used for drawing kolams. Although there are numerous traditional kolams patterns, lot more can be created depending on the creativity of the person who draws it.

It is not drawn like a picture. Patterns are created based on certain systems. Drawing Kolam is practiced by women. Generally women get up early in the morning and clean the area just outside the entrance of their houses, sprinkle the area with water and draw the kolam.

Purpose of Kolam

In olden times, other than a decoration, kolam made of coarse rice flour, were used for to treat ants so that they don’t have to work so hard for a meal. The rice powder is said to invite birds and other small critters to eat it, thus inviting other beings into one’s home and everyday life, a daily tribute to harmonious co-existence. It is a sign of invitation to welcome all into the home.

The patterns range between geometric and mathematical line drawings around a matrix of dots to free form art work and closed shapes. Folklore has evolved to mandate that the lines must be completed so as to keep evil spirits away. The design consists of 3×3 dot symmetry, 9 Goddesses Swastika Kolam with a single cycle by Nagata S.


The designs are drawn by taking the sand powder between the forefinger and thumb and by dropping the loose sand in a controlled way through their fingers. It takes a while to get the technique right. Once you do, you can design any kind of shapes and patterns.


Pookalam is an elaborate and colourful arrangement of flowers laid on the floor. During the popular festival of Onam, every household in Kerala decorates Pookalam, also known as ‘Aththa-Poo’ because it is considered auspicious to prepare it as a welcome for Mahabali( a king who is believed to visit Kerala during Onam).

The flowers used

Various flowers are used on each day as a specific flower is dedicated to 10 each days of Onam. Commonly used flowers include Thumba (Lucas Aspera), Kakka Poovu, Thechipoovu, Mukkutti (little tree plant), Chemparathy (shoe flower), Aripoo or Konginipoo (Lantana), Hanuman Kireedom (Red pagoda plant) and Chethi (Ixora). Of all these flowers, Thumba flowers are given more importance in Pookalam as they are small in size and glitter in the the soft rays of the sun. ‘Thumba Poo’ is also considered to be the favourite flower of Lord Shiva and King Mahabali was a devout worshipper of Shiva.

Rangolis made easy to create

Drawing Rangoli with Dots

Firstly choose a base. The base can be of sand, marble dust, saw dust, brick dust or other materials. Many people use brown or red stone sand-base. Use water so that sand will not be removed easily. Now start drawing dots (these dots help guide your drawings). Either you can draw dots on your own or can buy paper of dots from market.

Drawing dots by hand is difficult as we cannot put dots symmetrically. If dots are not in the same distance then the Rangoli looks asymmetrical & out of shape. So the better option is to buy paper with dots to draw Rangoli from the market. Wherever you buy Rangoli colors, you also get the dotted paper too from the same place.

Design molds

Now-a-days, it is very simple to make rangolis, even if one is not an expert. Plastic molds with ready made designs are available in all kinds of stores. Designs like motifs, stars, flowers, birds and all kinds are there in all shapes and sizes. One can combine 2 to 3 designs together with the molds and create a Rangoli pretty fast. You only need to put some sand powder over the mold and press it on a floor base.

So next time, you feel like making a Rangoli is too much work, think again. Besides, once you get the hold of making Rangolis, the creativity simply flows in and the designs start taking its own shapes.