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On a recent trip to India I was fascinated with the designs which women make on the floor of their homes or just outside them on the pavement or doorstep, so that as people step over the pictures, they attract good fortune into their homes. The patterns were originally made with rice, seeds, lentils and flour. Sometimes colour may be introduced using spices, or coloured rice flour sold in the markets, especially for holidays and festive occaisions. Flowers, leaves, fruit may also be incorporated, and an oil lamp used to illuminate the design at night. It is believed that when small creatures eat the rice etc, they carry the intention of the design to the gods. In some regions of India they are often symmetrical and geometric, and in other areas more curvy and swirling. These designs may be called Rangoli, Rangavalli, Chowk, Kollam and so on, depending on which area of India they are found. These days, vinyl stick down versions are available for city dwellers! The ritual of creating the designs is usually carried out by the older women of the household. The symbolism of sacred geommetry is apparant: a dot representing the point from which everything comes and goes to, a triangle represents the female and male aspects, a square represents stability, hexagons used for good luck, a pentagon the five elements, a hexagram has the male and female triangles interposed, an octagon symbolises protection, the swastika the four cardinal points, and a circle symbolises life and growth. Foorprints, animals and deities may also be included.
The ritual creation of the designs are a way that a woman bonds with her home, her family and the deities in her religion, and brings to life her affirmation for each day or a special occaision such as a birth or wedding.