Rangoli as an art form has its origin in India. In this form of artistic expression, simple or intricate patterns are drawn by hand. The patterns are drawn on the floor in a room of a house, or out on the road or in the courtyard. Rangoli is known by different names in different parts of the sub-continent. In the southern parts of the country like Tamil Nadu it is called Kolam and Golam or Kalam in Kerala. Rangoli is also known as mandana in Rajasthan, alpana in West Bengal, aripana in Bihar and chowk pujan in Uttar Pradesh. In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, rangoli is called muggu. Although the designs make the area look beautiful, the actual purpose goes far beyond mere decoration and rangoli designs are considered the harbingers of good fortune and divine blessings.
A wide variety of materials can be used to make rangoli designs. Usually, these are things that are easily available in any home such as powdered rice and flower petals. Other materials include chalk powder and coloured sand. Rangoli can be drawn on any day of the week or just on important days such as festivals like Diwali, Onam and Pongal, weddings, births and other significant occasions.
Rangoli designs are guarded jealously and passed down the generations. This serves the dual purpose of keeping alive the family tradition as well as the art form. Most designs are geometric shapes of varying degrees of complexity. Other variations include drawing the shapes of gods and goddesses and flower and petal patterns. If the design is very intricate or very large, it is done by several people, mainly women and children of the household. Designs also depend on the reason why the rangoli is being drawn and may also borrow elements from local legend and folk stories.