Guest Blog: The Art of Rangoli by Padma Komaravolu

This month, ART123 Gallery is proud to present “Rangoli: Traditional Folk Art of India – The Art of Colors and Patterns” by local artist Padma Komaravolu. This is a totally new adventure for the Gallery–we’ve never done this type of show before. The Rangoli art created for the show isn’t meant to last (see it while you can!) and it’s displayed on the floor instead of the walls. Not to mention that many of us at gallupARTS had not heard of Rangoli before meeting Padma. We’re guessing that Rangoli is new to you as well, so we asked Padma to answer a few questions and tell us a little bit about it.

1. What is Rangoli? 

Rangoli is the Traditional artform of India. It is a type of folk art that is passed down from one generation to another.

The word Rangoli is derived from the Sanskrit (language) word “Rangavalli” which means “row of colors.” Every state in India has their own style of Rangoli. Designs vary as they reflect traditions, folklore and practices that are unique to each area. It is known by different names in each state of India; for example, it’s called Muggu and Kolam in south India whereas it is known as Alpana, Mandana, Jhoti or Chita, etc. in other parts of the country.

Rangoli is drawn freehand outside, at the threshold of a house. Apart from the visual and aesthetic

Padma made Rangoli designs in Gallup’s downtown Walkway for ArtsCrawl in August 2017.

appeal there is a religious significance for this ancient Hindu floor art. This is symbol of auspiciousness. It’s a sacred art. It is a medium to welcome positive energy into the house as well as to welcome guests. This art creates a colorful, devotional presence and is a quiet ritual full of grace to make a home a sacred space.

This art is drawn on the floor in many ways including using only white powder, or white with yellow and red colors, or with any number of colors. In south India, rice flour is used to draw this art. The reason for using rice flour is that it feeds ants and other small insects and birds. These drawings on the floor are done every morning and washed away before drawing a new design the next day. There are certain rules when a drawing is done at a place of worship.

In south India, from mid-December to mid-January young girls draw this art daily before sunrise.

There are many aspects involved in this beautiful art including but not limited to preparation of surface, different materials used, variety of patterns, colors, designs, skill, spiritual significance, aesthetic appeal, creativity, passing on tradition, mathematical concepts, positivity, auspiciousness, happiness, communal harmony, divinity, calmness to mind, physical exercise, etc.

Over the years modern variations have added some flair to this beautiful traditional art­. Rangoli is thus rooted in its tradition yet thrives in this present era in a modern form.

2. How did you learn Rangoli?

Padma demonstrating freehand Rangoli with rice powder.

I learned this beautiful art of Rangoli through observation and practice. I observed my mom doing this art every morning, outside the house before sunrise during my school and college days. She would also do it inside the house during religious festivals and auspicious days of the week, like Friday.

Those were traditional designs with line and curved patterns using white and two other colors, such as turmeric and vermilion. The designs were small to medium size drawings drawn on the floor. The neighbors drew Rangoli with different patterns and colors.

During festivals and the turn of the year, younger people in the community came together and drew large Rangolis with many different patterns and colors. Later, I started drawing small Rangoli designs daily and larger ones for festivals and the new year.

Every year from mid-December to mid- January, many Rangoli patterns were published in magazines as it’s a special month for rangolis in south India. Those helped me learn a few designs. These days I learn from a lot of Rangolis I see online.

3. What ideas or techniques have you been exploring in your art recently?

Rangoli is a vast art with many patterns and I have an idea of transferring these designs to different surfaces like paper, canvas, etc using different medium. I also started showing my hand drawn and painted common Rangoli designs by printing them on bookmarks, greeting cards and picture frames.

One of my most interesting techniques to draw Rangoli designs is that I have been exploring with using common household items as tools.Recently, I had the idea of using hardboard with holes drilled in it for the dotted grid pattern for Rangol

4. What inspires you as an Artist?

Due to being in Gallup since almost eight years, I see art everywhere. When I see the talent of local artists in Gallup and the surrounding areas, be it students or professional artists, all of the wonderful Native artists, I get inspired by their passion, dedication, work and creativity.

I love art and creativity and have been to numerous art museums, galleries, exhibitions, arts crawls in all the places I’ve visited. When I see how talented the artists are, I am filled with admiration and inspiration.

Gallup offers so much support and encouragement to the artists in town and that is highly motivational.

When it comes to Rangoli, I am constantly amazed and inspired looking at all the people in the world creating new and improved designs while still keeping the sacred art alive

5. What do you find most challenging about being an Artist? What do you find most rewarding?

To me, the most challenging aspect of being an artist is accepting the criticism and taking it in a positive way. It is most rewarding when people really appreciate my effort.