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Reviving a vanishing folk art Alpana- form in Bengal
Nov 09, 2016

The traditional Bengal art of alpana, invoking Gods with finger-painted motifs, is now all but lost.

About the art:

  • It is Handed down through generations of women, 
  • In this Bengal folk art the finger is the brush and a paste comprising mainly rice powder is the paint, once adorned the walls and floors of houses.
  • The motifs are ritualistic images from mythology and scriptures.

Demise of art:

Art, either brush strokes of acrylic paint or, worse still, printed plastic stickers of the traditional art have taken its place in most of the houses and the myriad community puja-mandaps in and around the city.

Revival programme:

  • INTACH, under its cultural heritage programme, has joined hands with the Daricha Foundation, which also works to revive tribal and folk arts, to give alpana a fresh lease of life.
  • INTACH is now exploring whether it can be made into a source of revenue for girls from underprivileged sections.

More about Alpana:

  • Alpana is intrinsically linked with religious austerity (called brotos or vrat) practised by women of mostly rural West Bengal for the well-being of the family. 
  • Urban women until recently also observed such pujas, whose ‘closure’ would always be marked by a special puja and alpana drawing with special motifs. So if it is to propitiate Goddess of wealth Lakshmi, it would involve her carrier, the owl, a granary, a conch shell and lotus flower motifs. 
  • Young girls and married women alike would draw these designs on walls and floors of their mud houses using rice powder paste.
  • Materials: Traditionally in Bengal, alpana is strictly white since the liquid paste used for alpana is rice powder mixed in water. Nowadays there is somewhat change in materials. Some fabric colours are used along with some glue to give some long life of the alpana. Alpana is although generally white some green, red forms also drawn. Traditionally the green colouration done by tree leaves and red colour by sindur.


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