Rangoli is an art-form originating in India, in which a pattern is created on the floor using materials such as rice flour, coloured sand or flower petals. An interesting fact is that, though floor painting was practised in many cultures throughout the world, it has survived only in India with respect to day to day practice. It is very much a living tradition here. it is said that the purpose of rangoli decoration is thought to bring good luck and positive energy.
Rangoli initially started as practice during festivals, celebrations, in temples and in houses. Though it’s popularly assumed that Rangoli is just a cultural or decorative artifact for our houses, it has couple of important scientific uses:
- Rangoli is usually drawn in front of the house entrance where there is a risk of insects entering your house. These insects breathe with a network of tiny tubes called tracheae and air enters these tubes through a row of holes along an insect’s abdomen. When these insects crawl over a rangoli, its particles get attached to the holes thus stopping insects from breathing and killing them eventually. This greatly reduces the insects entering your house.
- In rural parts of India, it is a tradition among Hindus to smear the floor with cow dung and then draw rangoli. The recent researches have proved that Cow dung has the power to kill bacteria which are harmful for humans. Small insects like scorpions, centipedes etc don’t come near to the places which are coated with the paste of Cow dung. Hence it prevents people from various diseases and health issues.
As more and more population are moving to cities and urban areas, we are leaving behind this practice, we don’t see younger generation learning this art-form. We are instead using rangoli stickers in front of our homes or paint as a permanent rangoli. Though I appreciate their interest to beautify their home but nothing can beat the rangoli drawn with fine grain sand. I can only hope that this age-old cultural and scientific practice is passed on to the generations ahead of us. I am certainly teaching this beautiful art to my daughter.