Rangoli, Art & Celebration


Rangoli, the art of decorating floors and walls by hand with powdered grain or sand, is one of India’s most ancient design forms. Some kind of Rangoli is found in every region of the subcontinent, called by different names. The term ‘Rangoli’, which embraces all regional forms, is derived from two Sanskrit words: ‘rang’ meaning ‘color’ and ‘holi’ meaning ‘happiness’ or ‘celebration’.

Even though steeped in tradition, Rangoli designs are highly practical for modern use by artists, graphic designers and art therapists. The motifs are contained within a prescribed area like a stamp or medallion, making them attractive for graphics such as logos, letterheads and company symbols.

Rangolis are often symmetrical, which makes them valuable for therapy. The intent of every occupation in the Vedic tradition is to enhance outward and inward balance. Designing, applying and viewing rangoli creates a balancing effect on the central nervous system. As explained by Dr. Judith Sjorring, the brain has two hemispheres, right and left, connected by a bridge of tissue. The left brain governs logic and reason; the right brain processes emotional response and intuition. When the two sides work together, without excess domination of one side, learning and creative abilities are strongly enhanced, motor skills are maximized, emotions flow evenly and one experiences general well-being.

In addition, rhythmic repetition of lines and curves has been shown at the Stanford University Medical Center to calm nervous disorders and can help with the release of toxic emotions. Some Rangolis can be used for dance therapy as well; a Rangoli can be drawn on the floor and the participants sway along its outline.

The Vedic masters, called rishis, understood the connection between physical balance and mental/emotional wellbeing. Nithyananda has explained that everything in the Vedic tradition had a dual function. Work tools and decorations alike were engineered with the objective of improving neural function and opening higher states of consciousness. According to the Chitralakshana, the earliest known treatise on Indian painting, the first Rangoli was made at the instruction of Sri Brahma, the Lord of Creation, as a means to revive a dead child. Thus Rangolis are simultaneously associated with religious devotion, wish fulfillment, and with keeping the family together.

Rangolis are usually drawn before the door or gate of the home by the women of the family. In the form traditional to Tamil Nadu, called Kolam, the artist must draw in an unbroken line without removing the hand before finishing. According to Nithyananda, this smooth forward, backward and circular motion of the hand equalizes the right and left brain in a wonderful blend of science and aesthetics. The color and harmony are believed to attract good fortune, repel bad influences and stabilize the family. Themes can be related to a certain season, festival or deity. Some families have their own hereditary designs.

The concept of beauty and creativity as therapy has been attracting attention in medical circles during the past thirty to forty years. The Vedic rishis had gone even further. The science of Rangoli not only heals disorders, but it expands neurological development as well. Daily application supports the evolution of humanity to the next level of consciousness.