The Different Forms of Floor Paintings in South Asia

While we philosophically say ‘art knows no borders’, it is necessary to situate art in socio-cultural and geographical context. Floor art is no exception. Although distinct by its vivid patterns and quintessential chalk lines, its presentation and re-presentations adapt and mutate as per its location. Each carries its own style and cultural gravitas. Listed below is an interesting list of places where one might see the diverse hues of traditional floor art:  


1. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh

In these north Indian states, this particular art form comprised of intricate white lines drawn symmetrically is called ‘Mandana.’ The term has been popularized (and indeed is widely recognized) in recent years due to efforts of local Meena artisans such as Kaushalya Devi, Vidya Devi Soni and so on. You will find practitioners of Mandana in Bharatpur, Bundi Jaiput, Sawai Madhopur, Alwar, and Tonk districts of Rajasthan.


Rajasthani Mandana: The Different Forms of Mandanas

Rajasthani Mandana by Vidya Devi Soni (MeMeraki)


2. Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana

In Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, Floor art is commonly known as ‘Chowk Purana’ or ‘Chowk Poorana’. Literally translated as “squares that are to be filled”, this art form is illustrated in the same manner as Mandana in other states. One particular feature here however, is that women use cloth dipped in organic white clay to paint.


Chowk Purana: The Different Forms of Mandanas
Modern form of Chown Purana in Punjab (source: wikipedia) 


3. Bihar

Floor art in the north Indian state of Bihar is called ‘Aripana’. Made by women during auspicious occasions of puja, religious fasts (vrata), or purificatory ceremonies (samskara), Aripana is primarily drawn using powdered rice paste. What is interesting about this artform is that folks also use vermillion powder, charcoal, red clay to add colours to their work. Aripana is done on floors, walls, and ceremonial grounds.


Aripana: The Different Forms of Mandanas
Aripana from Bihar (source: Facebook/Reena Soni)


4. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

In these southern states of India, floor art is known as ‘Kolam’ ‘Muggu’ and ‘Tharai Aalangaram’ depending on the language spoken in each region. Loosely translated as “a thing of beauty”, Kolams are pretty unique as compared to its other counterparts. For example, the swirling lines always need to be inter-connected. Once a line is drawn, it must be linked in order to be ‘complete’. The whole-ness of a Kolam is said to keep evil spirits away. Another noteworthy factor is that, Kolams are drawn every day and not relegated to specific occasions. They are drawn using both rice flour, and chalk powder.   


Kolam: The Different Forms of Mandanas
A Kolam design (source: Flickr/jeetu kumar)


5. West Bengal

In West Bengal, many people paint Alpanas or Alponas. Renowned author, artist, and founder of the Bengal School of Art Abanindranath Tagore compared Alpanas in his work Banglar Broto as being similar to hieroglyphics. Due to their vivid symbolisms and religious significance, Alpanas are usually drawn in special occasions of marriage, pujas etc. They are done using rice powder and are mostly drawn free-hand without the use of scale or other accompaniments.


Alpana: The Different Forms of Mandanas
Alpana on the floor (source: Outlook India)


6. Gujarat and Maharashtra

In Gujarat and Maharashtra, this circular art form is called ‘Rangoli’ (translated as “colours in a ring”) as well as ‘Satiya’ (as in ‘Sati’ ‘companion’). The art work is mostly done during festivals by women to welcome the Hindu goddess Lakshmi into households for luck, prosperity, wealth, and peace. However, traditionally, like Kollam, Rangoli also has practical purposes. Limestone powder is sometimes utilized in making patterns to prevent insects from entering the doors.



Rangoli: The Different Forms of Mandanas
Peacock rangoli design (source: India Today)


7. Nepal

Across international borders, Mandana art is recognized under the term ‘Mandala’ or ‘Manda’. They are commonly created on canvases, paper, or cloth using pigments. They can also be crafted on a surface with threads, carved in bronze, or constructed in stone. The sand mandala (dupchhoe) is among the most famous kinds of mandalas, made using colored sand and powders in Tibetan monasteries. Once the mandala creating ceremony is over, the mandala is intentionally destroyed, symbolizing the fleeting nature of reality and the transience of all things.


Mandala: The Different Forms of Mandanas

Sand Mandala from Tharlam Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal (source:



  4. Mandana Art of Madhya Pradesh : A dying beauty - Ghoomophiro



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