Alpana or Alpona
The Alpana or (Alpona in Bengali) is derived from the Sanskrit Alimpan, meaning colourful designs.
The term commonly referred as Rangolin in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
Alpana painting is very popular in West Bengal. The art of Alpana painting is popularly known as Bengali Alpana ( or Bengali Alpona). Bengali Alpana Designs are decorations that are done during festive and ceremonial occasions.
Alpana – An Ancient Folk art Of India
The Alpana painting is one of the oldest forms of Indian Folk Art. The excavations at Mohenjo-Daro have shown that such paste was used to make designs around altars and later Buddhist monks were also known for the designs that they created with either a similar paste of broker rice or a preparation of gum, charcoal and leaves.
The designs of alpona are created on the floor with rice-paste. It is an ancient practice among the women to decorate the floors of their homes, the wells, the wooden seats and other household items with designs made from rice-paste, or with crushed colour in which case the alpana would be dry. Alpana Rangoli Designs were made both in a normal course and on special occasions.
At wedding or social occasions, the alpanas contained motifs that evoke pure and auspicious thoughts. The streets are decorated with alpana even during festivals and occasions of national celebrations.
Alpana Rangoli Making Process
The alpana decoration is done in a particular way. Broken rice is mixed with water to make the paste. Then with a piece of the cloth this paste is used to make the drawings. Generally, the alpana design is done in white but sometimes other colors are also used to make these more attractive. For red, sindoor or vermilion is used as well as crushed pieces of bricks, for black charcoal dust, for yellow tamarind or the marigold flower, for orange and stem of the shiuli flower and for green the juice extracted from crushed leaves.
Some motifs found in alpana rangoli designs are symbolic in character. The pictographic representations of ancient times show alpana motifs. It is evident that repetition and uniformity of motif are fundamental.
The motifs bring out not only the sense of beauty of the woman but also her wishes and desires.
The alpana painting is to be found mostly among the Hindus and the practice can be found in almost every state, albeit under different names.
In the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh it is Sonha Rakhna and Sanjhi in some other parts.
In Bihar it is known as Aripan, in Orissa Jhunti, in Gujarat Sathia, in Madhya Pradesh Mandan, in Rajasthan Mandana. In Himachal Pradesh and Haryana such designs are known as Lithnua, in Andhra Pradesh Mungli, Kolam in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Rangoli in Karnataka. Like in Orissa, the alpana is called Jhunti also in western Midnapore district in West Bengal because of the geographic proximity of the two regions.
In Orissa the women use different types of colored dust for the alpana rangoli designs and call this Murja. In Maharashtra and South India, women paint alpanas outside their doors and apart from broken rice also use crushed coconut, sand grains and chaff. The Mandana in Rajasthan is made of black, chocolate, blue and green colours and before painting, clean the ground with red soil and cow-dung. The designs are round or square. The Malayali women use the white of coconut and chaff for their alpana and for colour use different kinds of flower. The alpana or Kolam is a must in Kerala homes at harvesting time, just as in Gujarat homes and streets are such decorated during Deepavali.
In South India, for instance, the Kolam is for Shiva on Monday, Kali on Tuesday and Lakshmi on Friday. On Wenesday the Swastika is the alpana design. In Uttar Pradesh the scorpion in the motif symbolizes sorrow and in Bihar the Doka alpana is painted to ward off the influence of evil spirits. In riverine areas the fish symbolizes happiness.
In Bengal, Alpana is also referred to as Alpona. The Bengali Alpona Designs are reflection of the rich folk culture of Bengal.
Alpana Painting is traditionally a joint effort of all women present. No professional artists are engaged to paint alpana. The alpana rangoli deisgns is painted on special occasions, religious of social, certain symbols are always used and it is never an expensive affair even the poor can afford it.