Rangoli on water is one of our favourite festive kolams these days, and there are so many of these colourful drawings that we have tried at our studio over the last year! And while the concept of water kolams or water rangolis might seem new, they have been a part of our culture for a very long time. But before we delve deep into what water kolams are, let us reminisce a little about these beautiful designs that adorn the front of our homes every day!
I clearly remember that as a child, a rangoli trader roamed the streets with a large cane basket on his bicycle, calling out to the women to buy the dusty white powders by the seer, a vessel traditionally used for grains. Some would sell the powders by weight; at times, the quintessential white dusty powders came accompanied by the traditional red clay powder that would serve well as an outline on the white drawings.
Back then, stencils were few and artistic kolams were freely drawn. Women would generally practice designs in notebooks by lining up dots in a grid and joining or circling them with lines. New designs were shared between women this way too, and I still own a small notebook with traditional kolam designs that I refer to on occasion!
If you walked through the streets every morning, you’d get to admire beautifully drawn rangolis and kolam designs in front of every door and gate. On festive days, women would add free-flowing text in colourful powders alongside the kolam designs, making the occasion all the more special! Some would place oil lamps and florals in between to add a touch of terracotta, gold, or a pop of colour to the traditional red and white drawing.
And yet, I hadn’t come across a water kolam or any rangoli on water where I lived. We were familiar with pookolams, yes, and who wouldn’t be? They looked like magical flower carpets, the centres reserved for an elaborate kuthu vilakku. I also clearly remember coming across large bronze urulis with jasmine, hibiscus, roses, chrysanthemums and marigolds.
But how did one draw a rangoli on water? I never thought of it again until a year and a few months ago when I saw Instagram filled with these underwater kolams. Stencil after stencil was pulled out during the festive season, and the vibrant colours were submerged in water, where they lay undisturbed for a couple of days.
Rangoli On Water : Can It Be Achieved?
Absolutely! To explore floating powder kolams and floating stencil art, one can take inspiration from Jal Sanjhi, a 300-year-old art form from Rajasthan! Artists that practice Jal Sanjhi to this day retain rice paper stencils that their forefathers left behind. And some of these stencils are as old as 200 years!
Artists draw the “paintings” over trays and vessels of boiled and cooled water and treat them overnight with various additives that allow the artistic powders to float on top and remain that way for days.
A white powder is sprinkled over the surface to form the base for the artwork, and stencils are used to lay the colours strategically. The coloured powders are primarily made of natural ground-up stones, as is traditional. Following a legend where Radha laid flowers on pond water to outline Lord Krishna’s reflection, these artworks follow themes that resonate with Lord Krishna’s life. Some battles, some scenic depictions and others in traditional iconography are all colourfully displayed before Navratri to be admired by devotees and art enthusiasts alike.
Rangoli On Water : Modern Expressions
As wonderful as the process of Jal Sanjhi is, replicating it on a smaller scale at home seems rather tedious. But both budding and seasoned artists alike have found numerous ways to achieve similar results from the process with simpler kolams on a smaller scale in the comfort of their homes!
There are a few factors to consider when drawing a rangoli on water for the festivities.
- Consider the placement of the vessel and foot traffic in the area around the vessel with rangoli on water to avoid disturbance.
- Consider the kind of design you want to achieve in your final rangoli on water piece, whether a free-hand drawing or a stencilled artwork.
- Also, consider the shape of the vessel. Ideally, a circular vessel such as an uruli or a large bowl works well for rangoli on water illustrations.
Steps to draw rangoli on water surface:
- Place the vessel over a table or on a stand outdoors. Ensure that you do not place it on the ground where there is heavy foot traffic and if required for corner arrangements, elevate the vessel on a stable base.
- Fill the vessel with water almost to the top. Wait for a few minutes for the water to stand still.
- Gently sprinkle baby powder or distemper powder over the surface. Or use a dusty fine ground white quartz rangoli powder to create a background over the surface.
- Gently hand draw the rangoli on water keeping the vessel’s edges in mind. If the water swirls from the addition of the powders, move gently and add a bit of coloured rangoli powder at a time.
Rangoli On Water Or Underwater Rangolis?
While floating kolams and rangoli on water illustrations have gained popularity over the years, underwater rangolis have their enthusiasts! First, underwater rangolis are drawn or stencilled over flat and smooth platters, most of which are circular. Then, the rangoli powder is sprinkled over a well-oiled platter, and water is carefully poured over, submerging the design.
Here are some factors to keep in mind before attempting an underwater rangoli:
- Do not excessively oil the platter. The oil should only coat the bottom surface and not move around.
- Avoid using white rangoli or kolam powder as it turns translucent when it comes into contact with oil or water, thereby not providing any definition to the illustration.
- Avoid using dusty rangoli or kolam powders. Instead, use a fine sieve to shake the dust off old rangoli or kolam powder before use. Dusty rangoli powder immediately sticks to the oily surface and doesn’t allow for a crisp final outline.
- Pour only cold water over your kolam or underwater rangoli design.
Steps to draw rangoli underwater:
- Begin by choosing a flat and smooth-bottomed platter for your illustration. Ensure it is dry and clean.
- Use a tablespoon of clear oil, like coconut, to coat the platter’s base.
- Gently lay a paper or mesh stencil over the oiled surface and quickly fill in the areas with your desired colour. Avoid overfilling or using large amounts of coloured powder, as picking the stencil up may be challenging once the design is illustrated.
- Gently lift the stencil from the base and keep it aside.
- Use a wide-lipped tumbler or bowl to gently pour cold water away from the kolam into the platter.
- If it is a slightly deep platter, you may use lightweight florals or floating candles to add to the celebratory theme!
Shop for vintage brass and bronze vessels and platters here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the two types of rangoli?
There are actually numerous types of rangoli. The traditional ones are drawn in a dot grid style with line work using white quartz or stone powder. Other rangolis are pookolams which are flower arrangements made to look like rangolis. Some traditional rangolis are also drawn with rice flour or rice paste for festive occasions. And of course, last but not least, rangoli on water illustrations as well as underwater rangolis are common festive decorations these days!
What are the other names of rangoli art?
Rangoli is drawn all over India and is called by many names such as kolam, pookolam, muggu, alpana, mandana, saaz, zuti, and rangole.
What is flower rangoli called?
A flower rangoli is often seen in South India in parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. They are called Pookolams, where poo means flower and kolam means rangoli illustration.
Is rangoli a mandala?
Rangoli can be categorised as a mandala, especially traditional rangolis and kolam designs that were solely dependent on a symmetric dot grid and linear system to create beautiful illustrations.