I really enjoyed working on this story around Aipan. It involved a lot of learning. I am glad it found place in the travel section in the Mint Lounge, this Saturday. It was definitely a moment of double elation because it was my first write up for them. Also, those who write for print know its not easy to make a cut. There are amazing writers out there in the fraternity and editors are bombarded with innumerable story pitches everyday. I call it an achievement for myself because for me blogging or travel writing is not restricted to press trips or amazing experiences or growing followers, my aim is to focus towards good writing. Validation for the same comes from these bylines.
Here is the unedited version sent from my side to the Editor!
It started as a nonchalant stroll in the woods but ended on an artistic encounter. I was in a village called Dhela in Ramnagar, Uttrakhand and while passing through one of the cozier houses was tempted to enter. A young lady was deeply engrossed in creating a floor-art at the entrance of the house and the distinguishing elements of the various patterns arrested my attention. The style, the composition, meticulous hand-work and the local flavor that oozed from the creativity, piqued my interest. At first, I thought it was just another “Rangoli” work but the religious motifs, repetitive geometric patterns and nature-inspired elements, all put together in two basic colors spoke differently of the art form.
The young lady continued expanding her work in the center of the courtyard and I watched her silently. Two earthen bowls filled with gooey stuff lay close to her feet. She was using the white paste with the last three fingers of her right hand and was creating alternate triangular and circular patterns on the red background. A brief conversation after she was done, made me sit-up and notice the uniqueness and sanctity of Aipan, a Kumaoni art.
Talk to a local and you would know, Aipan is not just a form of art but a way of paying reverence to the Lord. Derived from the word “Arpan”, it literally puts you closer to the thought of offering something. The background is prepared with red clay known as “geru” and the designs are created on it with white paste made from rice flour. The women of the house claim their forte and have been using Aipani designs to decorate places of worship, entrance of houses and front courtyard for decades. The art makes its presence felt at all auspicious occasions because of the traditional believes that the motifs bring good fortune, blessings from the lord and fertility. One of the most popular holy feet design is considered equivalent to Goddess Laxmi. Other patterns like Chowki, Mandap, Swastika, Kalash complemented with natural elements like flower, birds and fish are popular among the artists.
To revive its popularity, Aipan has been bespoke on bags, wooden trays, notebooks, jewelry boxes, clothes, etc. One can buy these souvenirs from the locals to keep a piece of Uttrakhand in our home, in our heart forever.