At Enactus IPCW, we work with a group of middle-aged women residing in the Timarpur region of North Delhi, with the aim of reviving their ancient art form Aipan. Aipan is a beautiful form of art hailing from Kumaon district of Uttrakhand. It is made on the floors using white rice against the backdrop of red Geru.
A few tête-à-têtes with these ladies give you an insight into the beautiful cultural heritage that is Kumaon.
Mrs. Manju, who hails from Peepli village in the district of Almora, Kumaon, says that the culture of Kumaon has been fast diminishing. She tells us that she and her husband shifted to Delhi almost a decade back. She misses her village and the beautiful mountains of Uttarakhand, and her life back in Kumaon. Nothing makes her happier than talking about her culture.
A quick glance across her living room tells you that she…
On the 10th of April 2015, a few members of the Enactus team visited the target community of Project Aipan in Timarpur, Delhi. As always, we were welcomed with a beautiful Aipan painting at the doorstep. With our faculty advisor Ms. Gunjan Madan accompanying us, the door opened to an enlightening couple of hours which gave us an even deeper insight into the culture of Kumaon.
On the one hand, Mrs. Asha and Mrs. Manju’s self-invented Aipan designs beautified the red pastel sheets, and on the other, their melodious Kumaoni Music left us all humming to its tunes. Their eyes gleamed with memories and their voices sweetened through their smiling lips whilst they sang their local folk songs.
They also taught us words like ‘Hudung’ which translates to ‘Damru’ in Hindi. They also juxtaposed the presence of the various festivities in the past and the present day.
To understand the Aipan art better, it is very important to know the significance of ‘Dots’ in the Aipan designs. A ‘dot’ signifies completeness and life. According to natural science, a dot is like the seed through which the world has originated. Mathematical science also has a special emphasis on the dots. While meditating too, the axis of concentration is none other than a point or ‘dot’. It is thus that a dot is included as an important part of the Aipan art.
In the region of Kumaon, various Aipan designs with dots are adorned on the floor and the walls. While making the Aipan designs, it is especially checked that that every line or a group of lines in the design end with a dot. An Aipan without dots is considered inauspicious. On the death of a person, the Aipan is drawn without dots. This is indicative of a bad day for the family. After the death ceremony is over, Aipan designs are again made with dots, which signify good luck.
Lines also have a special significance. They signify continuity. Odd number of lines is used in Aipan designs. It is believed that even numbers are complete in themselves but odd numbers are incomplete and seem open-ended. It is suggestive of the wonderful message of continuity and eternity.
Aipan as an art form has much more to it than just a piece of beautiful artwork that pleases the eye. If we go deep into the significance of each element in the art form, a wonderful message to unfold.
Art is an illustration of thoughts, of feelings. It can comprise of lines, shapes, gestures, colours, melodies—anything that is a manifestation of emotions and beliefs. It won’t be absurd to say that art evolved with humans, with their prismatic cultures and traditions. As societies developed, local traditions flared, which percolated to future generations through socialization.
One such form of expression is Aipan. It originated amidst the hills of Uttarakhand, in the dainty Kumaon district. The geometric and rhythmic patterns are devotional, and some are even inspired by nature. Depiction of the several Hindu deities, representation of Goddess Lakshmi, motifs inspired from the village life, streams and rivers, and the protective Mountain Gods—everything justifies Aipan as the embodiment of a rich cultural heritage.
“Aipan” is derivate of the Sanskrit word “Arpan”, which means “to pigment.” It is not only practiced during prayer ceremonies and festivals, but also drawn to adorn doorways and walls in Kumaoni households. True to the very essence of the word, Aipan is used to fill colours in routine and celebrate the muti-hued facets of life.
It is believed that Brahma, as The Creator, left an imprint of a woman on the Earth, which was the first form of Aipan. There is a mention of the art in The Ramayana as well. This only goes to show how ancient this harbinger of good fortune and prosperity is.
Variants of the art are practiced in different states of India, such as Alpana in Bengal, Satiya in Gujarat, Rangoli in Maharashtra, Pooran Chowki in Madhya Pradesh, Saanjhi in Uttar Pradesh, Bhuggul in Andhra Pradesh, and Marhana in Rajasthan. South India’s Kolam and Bihar’s Madhubani, Arichan and Kahjar are also forms of intricate, derivative patterns. Each form depicts stories in a unique manner, limning a distinct culture.
Art as a reflection of the environment and traditions becomes an important beholder of a culture altogether. And it becomes important to preserve its essence, to adapt it to contemporary times, and sustain it. Happily, in the present day, efforts are being made in this direction.
Enactus IPCW has taken up the cause of Aipan—to bring the art form alive amidst the cluttered urban life.