Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, is celebrated on full moon in March to welcome spring. Hi, I am Mou Saha and I grew up in India joyfully celebrating Holi.
The name ‘Holi’ comes from the myth of Prince Prahlad whose faith in Vishnu was unparalleled. The highest trinity of the Hindu Gods are Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Shiva, the Destroyer. Prahlad was the son of the demon king, Hiranyakashipu who earned the boon of invincibility from Brahma. As his power grew, Hiranyakashipu demanded to be worshipped as God. Fearing persecution, people obeyed, except for Prahlad. Enraged Hiranyakashipu punished Prahlad by throwing him before fierce elephants, poisonous snakes, from rocky heights, into raging rivers, but Prahlad survived unscathed. Blessed with incombustibility, Hiranyakashipu’s sister, Holika, climbed into a lit pyre with Prahlad. Holika’s evil intention backfired and she was burnt to ashes while Prahlad emerged unharmed. Eventually, Hiranyakashipu was killed by the man-lion avatar of Vishnu called Narasimha. On Holi’s eve, people light bonfires to symbolically destroy evil and celebrate the victory of faith. This ceremony is called Holika Dahan.
On Holi people rejoice through color play, drenching each other with water balloons and Pichkaris (hand-held water pistons), sprinkling and smearing colored powders called abeer or gulaal. This tradition of Holi is connected to the eternal love story of Radha and Krishna, Vishnu’s eighth avatar. Krishna, blue as the sky, often asked His mother why Radha was not blue like Him and His mother said in jest that maybe Krishna should color Radha blue. The young Krishna did just that and to this day, devotees engage in this mischievous yet sweet tradition to celebrate love and connection over differences. As the day ends and colors are cleaned, families and neighbors gather together to share sweet dishes to wash away bitterness and usher a new beginning.
As with any festival, Hindu homes are decorated for Holi. Marigold garlands are strung from doorways. Rangolis or traditional floor art are created with rice paste or colored powder. This brings us to our Holi craft tutorial of making a simple Rangoli design using colored sand. If you have cement, tiled or clay floors, you could work directly on the floor. If you have wooden floors like I do, you may need to adapt your Rangoli. I am creating a simple lotus design on paper and turning it into a sand art Rangoli.
Supplies for Rangolis
- Two 8.5 x 11 inch cardstocks for templates
- Four 9 x 12 inches 140 lb. Watercolor Paper/ chipboard for a make-shift Rangoli
- Acrylic paints – choose colors to match your colored sand
- Paint brush
- Colored sand/ colored powder
- School Glue
- Paper to protect the work surface
- Small container for excess sand
For Rice-Paste Rangolis
- 1 cup dry white rice soaked in water for 3-4 hours
- Grinder for making a smooth runny paste
- Water as needed to adjust consistency
- Chalk for drawing
- Paint brush for painting with rice paste
- Flowers (real/artificial)
- A brass or any bowl (mine is 8” in diameter)
How to Make a Rangoli with Sand
1. Draw simple lotus and bud patterns with pencil on cardstock and cut out with scissors. My lotus are about 8 x 8 inches and buds are 6 x 4 inches.
2. Trace the templates on watercolor paper and cut out four sets of lotus and buds.
3. Draw petals leaving slight borders to create sections. Paint the sections with acrylic paints to avoid any bald spots after the sand is shaken off. Let the painted pieces dry overnight.
4. Apply a thin coat of glue with brush into a section staying within the lines.
5. Pour colored sand on the glued section. Let it sit for about 15 minutes. Gently lift the piece to let excess sand fall off onto the paper below. Pour the sand into a small container.
6. Repeat for each section till all the pieces are complete. Let dry overnight.
7. Place your Rangoli near the entrance of your home.
8. In the bowl, add water and flowers.
I store my Rangoli pieces flat in bags. If you are using colored sand directly on the floor, you can vacuum. Clean up your rice-paste-Rangoli with a wet cloth as Hindus consider rice to be a symbol of prosperity and you don’t want to vacuum or sweep away your abundance.
Enjoy Holi safely!
Mou Saha is a mixed media artist living in Chester, New Jersey. You can find all of Mou’s Creativebug classes here.