Powdered rice, chalk powder and coloured sand dream up the auspicious art of the Rangoli in significant occasions for the Indian community. 

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Kolam would be more familiar on the ears when used to describe the colourful intricate pattern as seen on the ground during religious festivals and ceremonies for the Hindus in Malaysia.

Deemed as an artistic expression, this cultural art is customary at the time of Deepavali, Pongal, weddings, birth and milestones as it not only perks up the surroundings, rangoli designs are believed to signify luck, fortune and divine blessings.

Many Hindu households look forward to the making of rangoli where the entire family can get together and take a role in preparing the folk art at home.

But fret not as here in Malaysia, the traditional art form is skillfully rehearsed in major shopping malls, buildings and down to the streets to observe the festival of lights.

If you are in Kuala Lumpur, talk a walk down to Brickfields and take delight in the merriment before Deepavali falls on 27 October this year.

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Materials

It is essential to note that materials used to make rangoli are accessible throughout the community and can be found in the homes of both the rich and the poor–rice flour, leaves crushed to powder, charcoal, dried soil and sawdust. Well-to-do households would also fashion fresh flowers, turmeric powder, fruits and nuts. 

Although coloured sand with synthetic paints is popularly most used, natural ingredients is still preferred because rangoli is made to not harm the insects, rodents and birds which feed on the designs after the occasion is over.

Design and Legacy

Rangoli designs has its own personalisation in each household and the auspicious symbols are passed down through generations. Diversity in shape, design and materials in rangoli may be motivated by traditions in different regions. Nevertheless, the admiration remain unchanged when one notices the time-consuming task that perfected the symmetry, complexity and precision in rangoli.

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For Deepavali, practitioners are drawn to use symbols like diya (the clay-made oil lamp), deities Lakshmi and Ganesha and flowers in the craft; Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity while Lord Ganesha is God of intellect and wisdom. Lotus flowers, fish, parrots and peacocks are also commonly spotted.

Significance

Rangoli is mostly created by the altar or outside the house. The traditional charm believes that the intricacy of a rangoli traps negative energies and keep evil spirits from entering the house while the colourful drawing is a welcoming sign for deities and guests to the house.

Modern Day

The beauty of this art form has inspired the evolution of the craft with introduction of stencils in shapes of lotus flowers, deities, footprints and sanskrit script in the market. Easily sprinkle the stencil with coloured sand or flour for an artistic result. 

Text by Jessy Wong


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