The Art of Alpona Floor Painting – Bengal

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The Art of Alpona Floor Painting – Bengal

Cultivating creativity through tradition

Alpona Street welcoming Durga Puja in 2017

It is the season of festivities and everyone is preparing to celebrate it with grandeur and pomp. From shopping to cleaning to decorating, every household seems to be in a festive fury. Among all these follies are the traditions and rituals that connect us to our culture. One such tradition involves painting colorful sacred patterns on the ground, known locally in the East Indian state of West Bengal as Alpona.

With the preparations of Durga Puja at Mandap Chandi (temple porch) continuing full force, the women of Gokna, a village in Basirhat, West Bengal, divided their work accordingly. While most of them are responsible for making arrangements for the puja (prayers), others have the duty to peel and cut the fruit to prasad (offertory), the more artistic are assigned the task of doing the main alpona (colored patterns) in the center of the mandate.

“We do not have enough financial strength to organize the puja individually. So we made this arrangement with 10 to 12 families who come together to celebrate it. But we follow all the rituals and traditions and alpona is one of them, ”said Shikha Das, one of the women involved in the arrangement. India Media Group. “We involve everyone in the process by having the children draw the designs at the entrance and other places while the centerpiece is made by an older person,” she added.

Art with rice flour dough

Alpona at home (Source: iveuntil16 / Flickr)

Alpona at home (Source: iveuntil16 / Flickr)

A traditional art form, alpona refers to the ritual of finger painting beautiful patterns mainly with a paste of rice flour on auspicious occasions in West Bengal. The etymology of the word is Sanskrit alimpana which means “to coat” or “to coat with”. Considered a folk art in Bengal, these beautiful patterns are believed to ensure the safety and prosperity of homes, neighborhoods and villages.

In Bengal, alpona is traditionally made using a paste of uncooked rice grain called paddy aatop chaal in diluted water until thick. A cotton ball is then dipped in the mixture and used to draw the various geometric designs and patterns of flowers, animals, birds, trees and humans.

Being made of rice paste, they are mostly white in color, but with the evolution of times women have included colors in them and some even use fabric colors to make them last for a long time. The fact that it is stretched using rice flour, previously it was considered bhutayajna, an offering to ants and other insects as a good deed of the day!

“I learned art when I was a child when my mother let me draw the alpona at the doors, since then I have always drawn them for all the holidays as well as for family weddings, ”says Prativa Das, a smiling octogenarian at India Media Group. “With age it became difficult for me to give the necessary work and last year I asked my great-niece to draw the alpona with fabric colors, so that it stays on much longer, ”she added.

Alpona was originally performed in villages by girls to decorate doorways, floors and squares in front of idols of deities. Initially, alpona saw the use of patterns of rice leaf, feet of the goddess Lakshmi, lotus and other images intended to welcome wealth into the house. But now he is experimenting with a wide variety of designs that develop from his intrinsic aesthetic properties, ”said Rabi Biswas, practitioner and researcher on the art form.

Whereas two years ago, Kolkata hosted Durga Puja with a colorful, mile-long street alpona, she celebrated this year the first anniversary of the down reading of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (ICC). A “Alpona Ceremony ”was organized by Adi Ballygunge Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity, a Durga puja committee from Calcutta as part of a joint initiative with a 14-year-old organization that works for marginalized youth. The club, which is celebrating 70 years of Puja, made the theme of their Durga Puja “Puja with pride”.

This art form is practiced all over India in one form or another and is known by different names. In Bengal and Assam it is known as Alpona, the people of Bihar call it Aripana, while in Odisha it is known as Jinnuti, Rangoli in Maharashtra and many other states, Pakhamba in Manipur, Kolam in Tamil Nadu and Apna in Almora and Nainital.


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