Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Alpona - Ancient Art in Modern Times

One of India’s most creative expressions of creative art is Alpona. Traditionally these drawings were made in front of doorways and in courtyards during auspicious occasions to drive away the influence of evil and welcome peace, wealth, health and ever lasting happiness

The original medium used for this art is a paste of ground raw rice. A cotton ball or a piece of cloth is used and dipped into this paste to make the beautiful designs. Being white, they were most prominent on mud floors.

Nowadays different types of medium are used on a variety of different types of surfaces. This graceful art can be done using acrylic paints, chalk, markers etc. Initially it was expected that alpona would always be white but now artists are experimenting with different colors and designs. This inspiring art can be also be done with flowers or the rich colors of a variety of grains - dals, rice and other beans are used to make elaborate patterns.

The art of Alpona is not just a part of the culture and art of Bengal, it has a special and traditional place in every important event in the household. From annaprashans to weddings, in pujas and rituals, the Alpona is considered auspicious and lucky .

It is prevalent in all parts of India, but with variations in the technique of the drawing as well as the traditional mediums used. The essential essence of the art is the same, it is believed to welcome peace, good health and prosperity as well as ward off evil influences.

The myriad terms used are Aripana in Bihar, Madana in Rajasthan, Rangoli in Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra, Chowkpurana in Uttar Pradesh and Kolam in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Muggu in Andhra Pradesh.

The designs are symbolic and common to the entire country, and can include geometrical patterns, with lines, dots, squares, circles, triangles; the lotus, trident, fish, conch shell, footprints (supposed to be of goddess Lakshmi), creepers, leaves, trees, flowers, animals and figures. These motifs often are modified to fit in with the local images and rhythms.

The basis of the word 'Alpana' has two different versions. As per one version, it originated from the Sanskrit word 'Alimpana', meaning 'to plaster with' or 'to coat with'. The other version traces its roots to the word 'Alipana', meaning the art of making walls or embankments. This art is also related to the intricate Mandalas in Buddhism.

Immersed in ancient practices and reaching modern heights, Alpona is today an integral part of Indian culture.

Alpona with Flowers

Alpona with Grains & Beans

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