The word ‘rangoli’ comes from the Sanskrit ‘rangavalli’, meaning ‘row of colours’. However, this simplistic definition does not even begin to cover the truly remarkable depths and intricacies of this ancient tradition that has deep roots in Indian culture.

Every year during Diwali, the Festival of Lights, households mark the celebration of the triumph of “good over evil” by lighting diyas (oil lamps), setting fireworks and creating patterns of explosive colours on their doorsteps called ‘rangolis’, using materials such as sand, rice, flowers and diyas. Different regions of India produce unique variations of rangoli designs. The wide variety of resplendent design options, from simple geometric patterns to fine-lined pictures capturing intricate floral beauty, makes this a much-loved tradition by expert artists and novices alike. Even if your capabilities as an artist are limited to stick figures, templates are available in many shops which make the rangoli process as simple as copy-paste. As long as you have a bit of imagination and dedication, anyone can make a rangoli. Of course, many people still choose to leave this Diwali tradition up to the artists in their family!

However, it is important to remember that rangolis are more than a form of artistic cultural expression. Each swirling pattern is believed to bring good luck and prosperity, whilst also serving as a warm welcome for guests entering your happy household. It helps to imagine the rangoli as a spiritual ‘shield’ warding off evil spirits from the home, instead inviting the love and friendship of family and friends. 

To celebrate the rich cultural diversity at our school, The Tiffin Girls’ School hosted their annual Diwali Rangoli competition. The hall was filled with eager contestants, hunched over their rangolis with eyes fixated on their beautifully crafted pictures, each careful shift of sand and delicate placement of petals contributing to an end result that served as an astounding reflection of the students’ keen imaginations and creative abilities.

In the background, the thumping sounds of classic Bollywood beats echoed through the competition hall, layered with the cheerful cacophony of encouraging words erupting from the sidelines, where supporters of the hard-working rangoli designers watched with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Scattered across the room were exclamations of “Wow!” and “It looks so good!”.

As I looked around the room to smiling faces, laughing crowds and students dancing with interlocked arms, the sight of everyone celebrating our diversity and creativity as a school evoked a sense of community that is rarely found in the modern day. In our busy lives, finding the time to express your creativity through different forms of art is extremely rewarding; such a simple thing as a work of cultural art is able to bring so many people, of all backgrounds, together. The beauty of the rangoli lies in how its vibrant and intricate patterns reflect the rich, multicultural society that we live in today, thus making this Diwali tradition a true celebration of life, and love.