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Rangoli art for Divali

Saturday, November 2, 2013
Richard Rampersad completes a peacock-inspired rangoli design at the UWI Hindu Society’s annual Divali and Theatrical Production at the JFK Auditorium, UWI St Augustine on Thursday evening. PHOTO: DARREN RAMPERSAD

During the festival of Divali, many members of the Hindu faith will be preparing their homes to welcome family, friends and of course, the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. As Divali is the festival of lights, many areas throughout T&T will come alive tonight with the lighting of deyas, candles and electronic lighting. Many homes will also be decorated otherwise and rangoli—Indian folk art—is sure to be a feature. Below is an interview with multimedia artist Richard Rampersad about the practice and symbolism of rangoli. Rampersad has been drawing rangoli for various Hindu festivals throughout T&T for more than six years. 


How do you describe rangoli art? 
Rangoli is a traditional Indian art form consisting of folk and tribal elements. I see rangoli as a visual mapping of auspiciousness and ritual engagement. Rangoli signifies a relationship to ritual space, mapping the contours of ritual purity. Additionally, it is seen as an offering that has an inherently dynamic creative capacity.


When is rangoli used? 
It is used during Hindu festivals and events. Rangoli is drawn to honour, celebrate and  mark various occasions. Rangoli is the sacred welcoming area for Hindu deities. Wherever and whenever sacred spaces need to be created, cleared and cleaned for ritual purposes, rangoli is nearly always necessary as a visual sign. Examples of some events include Divali, Navaratri, weddings and pujas. However, rangoli is never used for funerals. 


Can anyone draw rangoli? 
Anyone can design and create rangoli, however, rangoli is not done by a woman during her menstruation or by someone who recently had a passing of a close friend or relative. 


How do you draw/make rangoli art? What materials do you use? Where is it drawn? 
For my rangoli patterns I use coloured rice, coloured powder (kolam), flower petals, chalk or even paint. This type of art is usually executed with bright colours. My designs vary from a simple star pattern of opposing, interlocking triangles to highly complex labyrinth designs. I also use popular Hindu motifs such as yatras and mandalas. The designs can be divided into geometric, figurative and landscape styles, or a combination of them. They can also include sacred pots, deyas, lotus flowers, conch shells, birds, drums, sacred letters, snakes, books and images of particular gods and goddesses. Rangoli is not only drawn on the floor. I have done many designs on tree trunks and walls in the form of boarders at the base. Soon, I will be working on a rangoli ceiling for a local Mandir. 


Do the colours have any particular meaning? What are some rangoli symbols? 
As far as rangoli is concerned, colour is usually not representative of any particular narrative or idea. However, in Hinduism generally, there are several inferences made with colour and its symbolism. Colours play a very important role in Hinduism and have a deep significance, transcending purely decorative values. Hindus use colour on the deities and their dresses signifying their qualities. Some of the main colours used in Hindu religious ceremonies are red, yellow, orange, green and white. 



Rangoli symbols 
and their meanings 
Birds—messengers between heaven and earth
Parrots—messengers of love
Flowers—joy and happiness
Vines and leaves—longevity, devotion, perseverance, entwined lives and vitality
Lizards and snakes—seekers of enlightenment
Tortoise—protection and fertility 
Lotus Blossom—the light within, the awakening of the human soul, grace, beauty, creativity, sensuality, femininity, and purity.


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