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Rangoli - Art of Conveying Profound Thoughts

On a festival, the entrance of our homes is decorated with elaborate rangoli and adorned with fresh leaves to create an ambience of celebration and warmth. On any normal day too, early in the morning, the entrance of the house is decorated with a new rangoli as lakṣaṇa - an auspicious mark. Little do we realise that the practice of decorating our houses with rangoli has been in vogue for a few thousand years! Almost every woman of this land has been an artist - an artist who so very naturally and unassumingly has drawn these complex geometrical patterns that's a sight to behold.

A rangoli is created over a grid of visible or invisible dots, using straight and curved lines that follow spatial precision and symmetry. This artist guides rice flour or finely ground powder in between two fingers to create these dots and lines - no other tool is used. A small pattern can be infinitely developed resulting in extremely intricate, complex and an expansive piece of art. In fact, the patterns of rangoli is said to have inspired and contributed to the development of many western mathematical ideas too.

The practice of drawing rangoli, like many other practices that have been preserved over thousands of years in this land, finds its basis in philosophical thoughts of Sanatana dharma.

Sanatana dharma considers everything in the universe (jagat) as non-different from the Creator, or a mere manifestation of the Creator, the Parabrahman. While the Creator of the universe remains ever unchanging, the universe itself is impermanent as it goes through the never ending cycle of srishti, sthiti and laya. The only way to connect with the Creator is through the creation - the material world.

Since everything in the universe is a manifestation of the Creator, every object is considered sacred, or as the Creator itself. Hence, we worship everything - trees, animals, birds, mountains, rivers, rocks etc. Natural events like a sunrise, full moon or a change of season are credited to the Creator. Innumerable festivals wherein various and varied aspects of the world are celebrated exist. Sanatana dharma thus simply is a celebration of life - connecting with the Creator.

Celebrations involve bringing together the best of everything we are capable of with our body, speech and mind. Thereby, art, music, intellect, what we create with materials are all part of connecting with the Creator and expressing gratitude.

Ritually adorning one's home with rangoli is one such everyday celebration.

● Skilfully creating a piece of art adhering to the aesthetics and spatial symmetry brings joy to the individual who creates it while announcing the well-being of the household to the society.

● The material used for creating the rangoli is rice flour or finely ground powder of a certain rock. Hence, the rangoli is likely to be erased by the end of the day for various reasons. Whatever remains of the rangoli from the previous day is washed with water by the same individual the next day to create a new rangoli. The rangoli, therefore, represents and brings to attention the impermanence of everything in the universe - all the celestial material, the world we live, our lives, our family and the material we possess, while reiterating the permanence of just the Creator responsible for srishti, sthiti and laya.

● New rangoli is created every day with unstifled enthusiasm while being fully cognizant of the fact that rangoli being created is impermanent. Attempting to create another beautiful rangoli for that day is a practice to cultivate a consistently positive mindset in the face of uncertainties and adversities.

● Rangoli can be a very fine piece of art. When the artist, in particular, is wholeheartedly involved and perseveres skilfully, it is very likely that the artist falls in love with her creation. The artist, however much she wishes against, the impermanent nature of rangoli cannot be altered. The exquisite piece of art being washed away, every day, is consistent training for the artist to acknowledge the undeniable fact of impermanence of her work/property and develop a studied detachment (vairagya). The studied detachment doesn't mean losing interest in discharging her duty. Instead, it spurs the feeling of contentment by offering new and exquisite rangolis as gratitude to the Creator.

Decorating our homes with Rangoli as an everyday ritual is therefore a cultural practice that conditions us to perceive and understand the reality of the world and mould our actions in accordance with the reality.

We, in our day-to-day living, should be able to thus distinguish between the permanent and impermanent, those that change and remain unchanged. This distinguishing ability, or viveka, is essential to conduct ourselves meaningfully.

Changing situations and uncertainties are part of life. Reminiscing or regretting about the past and worrying about the future prevents us from being our true self in the present. Ability to go about our lives with unhindered enthusiasm and positivity amidst uncertainties is invaluable.

We need to cultivate studied detachment or vairagya towards our possessions by being cognizant of their temporal nature. Excess attachment with the impermanent is undoubtedly a cause of eventual suffering, a fact that is ignored by the modern western thoughts that currently rule our society and our lives.

The following verses of the Bhagavadgita unambiguously state the inevitable outcome of the absence of viveka and vairagya

dhyayato visayan pumsah

sangas tesupajayate

sangat sanjayate kamah

kamat krodho'bhijayate

krodhad bhavati sammohah

sammohat smrti-vibhramah

smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso

buddhi-nasat pranasyati

While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.

From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, everything is lost.

Cultural practices of Sanata dharma are meaningful and have subtle, definitive and long-term tangible benefits. Absence of immediate tangible benefits, immense sense of inferiority complex ingested in us about our civilisation and the insecurity of being different from others around prevents us from seeing the reality. We have to overcome these and reclaim the knowledge and practices of what we have lost of our civilisation. As parents, let us involve our children in inculcating rich and meaningful cultural practices that help them and us perceive the realities of the world and celebrate life as well.

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