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.
Written by Arushi Sharma