Aripan is a variation of Rangoli, practiced in Bihar. The Aripan floor painting is derived from the Sanskrit word Alepan(meaning - to smear). It refers to smearing the ground with cow dung and clay for the purpose of purification.
Aripan made for a pooja (Image source)
Initially, Aripan designs were made as an offering to appease the Gods to make the cultivable land fertile and fruitful. However, in the present day it has become a part of the numerous day to day ceremonies and rituals. Aripan is drawn, both for adornment and purification.
Origin of Aripan:
Aripan is a type of Mithila art that originated in the Mithila region of Bihar, particularly in the village of Madhubani. The origin of the art is shrouded in mystery. It is generally believed that it was created during the epic period when King Janak of Mithila ordered the marriage hall to be decorated for his daughter Sita’s marriage to Lord Rama. Some vivid descriptions of these wall and floor paintings are present in Tulsidas’s Ramcharitamanas.
Mithila art is also known as Madhubani art. Originally this art was created only on freshly plastered mud walls and floors of huts. But now they are done on cloth, hand-made paper and canvas too.
While creating the Aripan, brushes are not used but, nimble fingers are used to make these delicate designs.
A traditional Aripan
Creating an Aripan:
To create an Aripan a paste of powdered rice and water, known as “pithar” is prepared. The women dip two fingers into the pithar, and by graceful and deft movements produce beautiful, geometrical patterns on the mud floor of their homes and courtyards. These patterns also include different design elements integrated into them.
This art is a thanksgiving to the mother goddess Earth. In order to adorn the creations more, the women also smear red powder at certain places; this enhances the created Aripan.
Along with the pithar locally available raw materials are used specially for generating colours.
Vermillion and local red clay for red; turmeric and flower petals for yellow; leaves for green; soot for black and crushed berries for blue, are used to adorn the Aripans.
Aripan being created with pithar (Image source)
Aripans usually comprise of line drawings, illustrated on the floor of the house. Aripan patterns are a part of each and every auspicious ceremony in Bihar, be it a puja, a Vratas (fast) or a samskara (mundan-tonsuring ceremony, vivah-marriage, yajnopavita-thread ceremony, etc).
On the eve of a ceremony, the courtyard is decorated with the Aripan designs at the front entrance or threshold to the home, and a number of other places inside the home. Any ceremony or ritual is considered incomplete without this traditional art form adorning the ground.
Both old and young women practise this particular art form.
Types of Aripans:
There are many kinds of Aripan, which are drawn for various occasions.
One kind of Aripan is drawn on the auspicious occasion of Tusari Pooja which occurs between Makar Sankranti and Falgun Sankranti, by young, unmarried Maithili girls who get good husbands. In this Aripan are drawn a temple, the moon, sun, and navagrah (nine planets).
Sanjha Aripan, is depicted in honor of Sandhya Devi (goddess of the evening) .
Sasthi-pooja-Aripan is painted when young girls attain puberty.
The Gatra-Sankrant Aripan is the symbol of birth and death, whereas the Kojagara Aripan is drawn on the leaf of Makhan on the full moon-day of Aswin (September).
Diwali Aripan, which is known in the Mithila region as Sukha-ratri Aripan, is depicted to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. And Swastik Aripan is drawn for blessing the younger generation.
Lotus Aripan (Image source)
Designs Used in Aripan:
The designs or the motifs used in Aripan fall into the following five categories:
• Images of human beings, birds and animals.
• Images of flowers (lotus), leaves, trees and fruits.
• Tantrik symbols, like yantras, bindu (dots), etc.
• Forms of Gods and Goddesses.
• Forms of objects like lamps, swastikas, mountains, rivers, etc.
A traditional Aripan (Image source)