Written by 10:04 AM Staff's Picks, Travel

Aipan, a Kumaon art form that wards off evil

Folk art in India is extremely diverse. Even within a particular state, you will find numerous kinds of folk art, and they usually come into play at special occasions, such as festivals, marriages or religious purposes. The Himalayan region in India is vast, with different cultures residing throughout its length and breadth. Today, we will look at a particular art form that is native to the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, called Aipan. It is a ritualistic folk art, and is usually known to protect us from evil. 

The old folk art of Kumaon can be found in the daily lives of the people here. You might see it on clothes or other objects, or even on the walls and doors of houses. Another common place to draw Aipan is the doorstep, you might find these at homes across the Kumaon region. The folk art form is said to have originated in Almora, and became popular during the Chand dynasty. Since then, it has spread across the Kumaon region, and some other parts of Uttarakhand. 

In the art of Aipan, there are certain aspects that are important. Traditionally, when Aipan is done in houses or on other grounds, it is done on a red surface. Made of red ochre mud, it is known as geru. The material for drawing on top of this is a solution made of rice. Much like the Alpona that is drawn in the homes of Bengal, particularly on the day of Lakhsmi Puja. Here, in Uttarakhand, the rice paste solution is known as bisvar. 

The patterns you see are drawn with the help of three fingers, the forefinger, the middle finger, and the ringfinger. The long drawn lines that you may see in various places, especially door steps are called Vasudhara, and these vertical lines are integral in drawing of Aipan. 

Traditionally, Aipan starts and ends with a dot, right at the centre of the drawing, that symbolizes the centre of the universe. Everything that you see outside the centre, has originated from that centre. Geometric figures, swastikas, figures of gods and goddesses, or other such drawings are very commonly seen in Aipan. Even footsteps of goddesses, which is also the primary image that is drawn in houses of Bengal on the day of Lakshmi Puja through Alpona. 

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