What Are Rangolis and Why Are They Drawn for Diwali?

Updated on October 15, 2019
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Aanvi is a full-time mom and part-time healthcare worker. She's glad to be able to share her well-researched articles.

Rangoli is a traditional Indian art form practiced during Diwali and during other celebratory occasions.
Rangoli is a traditional Indian art form practiced during Diwali and during other celebratory occasions. | Source

To brighten up the spirit of Diwali—a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs sometime during either October or November every year—many Indians draw rangolis on the front porches of their homes. Diwali is celebrated at a different time each year depending on when the holiday falls per the lunar calendar. Rangolis are also drawn during other major festivals in India such as Pongal, Onam, and Tihar.

What Is Rangoli?

Rangoli is a form of art in which colorful designs are made with flowers, colored sand, chalk, or colored rice. The designs range from small, simple, color-filled circles to large, extravagant, detailed works of art.

What Are Some Other Names for Rangolis?

Rangolis have many alternate names that are used in different regions in India. Here are some examples:

  • In West Bengal, a state in eastern India, rangolis are called alpanas.
  • In Tamil Nadu, a southern state, they are known as kolams.
  • In Andra Pradesh, another southern state, they are called muggus.
  • In Rajasthan, a northwestern state, they are called madanas.
  • In many northern Indian states, they are referred to as chowkpurnas.

Why Are Rangolis Drawn During Diwali?

Rangolis are drawn during Diwali because Diwali marks the largest celebration of the year in India. When drawn during or prior to Diwali, rangolis are said to bring good luck, prosperity, calmness, and happiness to their creators.

This is a good example of a medium-sized, symmetrical, circular rangoli.
This is a good example of a medium-sized, symmetrical, circular rangoli.

The Origin of Rangoli

There is much folklore surrounding the origin of the rangoli artform. One legend tells of a king who, along with the rest of his kingdom, was grieving the death of a priest's son. The king and his people prayed to Lord Brahma (creator of the universe) and asked him for help. Pleased by the prayers, Lord Brahma told the king to draw a painting of the dead boy on the floor, which the king did. Once the painting was done, Lord Brahma put life into the painting and brought the boy back from death, restoring happiness across the kingdom.

An alternate origin theory points to mentions of rangoli in Ramayana, the holy epic of India. The tale refers to Indian paintings seen in a pavilion during Lord Rama and his wife Sita's wedding. Yet another myth tells that in southern India, where Andal and Lord Thirumal got married, young females would rise before dawn to draw aesthetic rangolis to welcome Lord Thirumal and commemorate the sacred union.

Whatever the case may be, rangolis are now an integral part of Indian culture and are commonly drawn in celebration of Diwali and other festivals.

This ornamental (non-symmetrical) rangoli was created outdoors using chalk.
This ornamental (non-symmetrical) rangoli was created outdoors using chalk.

Types Of Rangoli Designs

Rangoli designs are usually drawn in one of two ways:

  1. Circular/Symmetrical: These rangolis use circles, cones, and lines as the basis for their designs. Although rangoli designs have evolved over generations and now feature more detailed and exquisite designs, the original rangolis were always drawn symmetrically. It is said that symmetry is necessary for balance and that balance brings about a state of tranquility and cheerfulness.
  2. Ornamental: Ornamental rangolis make use of asymmetrical images such as birds, flowers, deities, trees and more. Ornamental designs have become more popular over the past 15–20 years. These types of designs allow their creators to think outside of the box and be more creative in making their designs.

How to Create a Rangoli: A Beginners Guide

Make Your Own Rangolis

Being of Indian origin, I buy rangoli color packets every year. You can put these rangoli colors in empty squeeze bottles to make your designs if you want mess-free fingers. You can create your own designs, or you can use stencils to create traditional Indian images.

If you like, you can use these 6" x 6" stencils to create beautiful Indian rangolis. Just follow the lines and spread the colors. You can use these designs on the floors of your house—popular areas include entryways, kitchens, and living areas. It is considered good luck to put them right outside your front door surrounded by flameless tea lights.

Children and Rangoli

Kids love arts and crafts, and most love to get messy as well. Doing rangoli activities with children or students is a great way to teach them about this beautiful aspect of Indian culture and allow them to explore different forms of design. This video was created to teach elementary school children about the country of India and the traditional art form of rangoli.

Eco-Friendly Rangolis

Younger generations tend to prefer eco-friendly cardboard rangolis. These designs, which can be reused every year, are created by decorating recycled cardboard. The youths love letting their imaginations run miles to create beautiful, shiny, gem-filled designs. Rangolis made from flowers are also considered to be eco-friendly.

When Can I Start Making My Rangolis for Diwali?

Diwali is celebrated for five days. You can start making your rangolis before the celebration and leave them intact until the beginning of Diwali or until its last day. You can also choose to make different designs for every day of Diwali.

Wishing You All a Very Happy Diwali!

I hope you enjoyed reading about the rangoli art form. Happy Diwali!
I hope you enjoyed reading about the rangoli art form. Happy Diwali!

© 2019 Aanvi


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    • hashtagmomblog profile imageAUTHOR


      9 months ago from United States

      Thank you. :)

    • lizmalay profile image


      9 months ago from USA

      I bet the one you did still beautiful :)

    • hashtagmomblog profile imageAUTHOR


      9 months ago from United States

      Thank you Liza. Yes. I wish I was talented like some the rangoli artists in India who do big elaborate rangolis. I make simple designs but I enjoy it regardless. :-)

    • lizmalay profile image


      9 months ago from USA

      Hi Aanvi, I love the decoration of Rangoli because it was so colorful.Happy Diwali to you and your family. May this year be better than the past.


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