Sunday 1 December 2013

The Rangoli Dasa

Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi (1727-1809) was not only a great scholar but he was also a well-known Rangoli artiste.
The Dasa would spend time by drawing various Rangoli designs even as he sang the glory of  Hari.
He would draw different deities in Rangoli and they became so popular that people started calling him as Rangoli Dasa.
The Rangoli that the Dasa drew were so life like and so beautiful that people felt highly devotional on seeing them.
One day, Jagannatha Dasa happened to visit the house of Dewan Purnaiah in Srirangapatna. Tipu Sultan was the ruler of Mysore Kingdom and Srirangapatna was his capital.
Dewan Purnaiah and Jagannatha Dasa were great friends. When Jagannatha Dasa stayed in the Dewan’s house for some time, he began drawing Rangoli.
The rangoli drawings were highly appreciated by every one. When Purnaiah came back home from office, he was delighted to see the beautiful Rangoli. He was all the more happy when he noticed that the Rangoli was that of Ranganathaswamy, the presiding deity of Srirangapatna.
Both Hyder Ali and his son Tipu had great faith in Ranganatha and they did not harm the Ranganantha Temple. In fact, both donated liberally to the temple.
Dewan Purnaiah too was a devotee of  Ranganatha. He was a Madhwa Brahmin from a village near Coimbatore. When Purnaiah saw the Rangoli drawing of Ranganatha, his joy knew no bounds.
Purnaiah prostated before the Rangoli. But when he looked at it closely, he found that the God did not wear any crown.
Purnaiah then pointed out to Jagannatha Dasa that the drawing did not have the crown of Ranganatha. He said the Rangoli would have been complete had the crown been drawn.
Jagannatha Dasa replied that he had not draw the crown as Ranganatha had not worn it. This reply so astonished Dewan Purnaiah that he sent his servant to the temple to ascertain whether or not Ranganatha was wearing a crown.
The servant went to the temple and had a darshana of Ranganatha. He then came back to Dewan Purnaiah’s house came and told him that the priests had not yet kept the throne on the head of Ranganatha.      
Dewan Purnaiah was filled with admiration and respect to Jagannatha Dasa. He then acknowledged the holiness of the Dasa.
From then on, he became an ardent devotee of  Jagannatha Dasa.
Another Haridasa, who was well-known for Rangoli, was Helevankatte Giriyamma.
This Haridasi would draw Rangoli depicting the life and times of Krishna, particularly his sport with the Gopis, at the Ranga Mantapa in Helavankatte and then sing songs. People of the village liked her songs and Rangoli too.
Rangoli is known by different names in different states. If it is rangavalli in Karnataka, Kollam in Kerala, muggu in Andhra Pradesh, purna in Uttar Pradesh, mandana in Rajasthan, aripan in Bihar, alpana in Bengal and Maharashtra, alikhthap in Kumaon and saathiya in Gujarat.
It is not just the names but the designs too vary  from State to State. In Maharashtra, rangoli are drawn on the doors of homes to ward off evil forces attempting to the house. In Kerala, during Onam, flowers are elaborately set out and designed for each of the ten days of the celebration. In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the rangoli is drawn upon the ground or floor daily.
The designs of the Rangoli are geometric and symmetrical shapes but the materials used are either rice flour or slurry.
Chitralakshana, the earliest Indian treatise on painting, gives us an interesting legend about the origin of Rangoli. It says when the son of a King’s high priest died, the king was distressed. Lord Brahma asked the king to paint a likeness of the boy on the wall so that he  could breathe life into him again. That painting is believed to be the first Rangoli.
Another legend has it that God extracted the juice of a mango and painted a figure of a woman with it. Whatever its story of origin, the rangoli is mentioned in the Epics. Rangoli is a Sanskrit word, meaning creative expression of art by means of colors.
This ancient art form is drawn at the entrance of a house to usher in peace and prosperity. These drawings can either be simple or highly intricate. Apart from making the surroundings aesthetic and auspicious, they are believed to usher in peace and prosperity.
By the way, Suyatheendra Theertham senior pontiff of  Mantralaya Matha or Sri Raghavendra Swamy Matha (he was earlier known as (Susheelendracharya) is an excellent exponent of Rangoli art. 
There is a beautiful story about Rangoli and Purandara Dasa.
One day, Purandara Dasa came home and when he stepped on the threshold of his house, he was astonished to see a beautiful rangoli. He called his wife, Saraswathi, and complimented her on drawing such a beautiful design.
Saraswathi told her husband that it was nothing new but the rangolis are drawn every day and each of them are beautiful. She then stunned Purandara Dasa when she said that the Rangoli was not drawn by her but they were beautifully set when she opened the front door every morning to wash the courtyard and draw rangoli.
Purandara Dasa then decided to find out the mystery of the rangoli. He sat up the whole night and early in the morning he found a group of women washing the courtyard and drawing the rangoli.
Purandara called out and asked the women who they were and why they were drawing rangoli in front of his house. One of the women replied and said she was River Ganga. Introducing the others, she said they are  Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Cavery. 
She said all of them were river goddesses and they had come to paint rangoli so as to serve pious people like you. The women bowed to Purandara Dasa and vanished.
Even Emperor Krishna Deva Raya had noticed the beautiful rangoli in front of the house of Purandara Dasa. When he asked Vyasa Raja about it, the Rajaguru told him that they had been drawn by the seven river goddesses. This story may look imaginary but look at the moral of it. A drawing in front of the house not only pleases human beings but gods and Gandharvas too. What was the outcome of the beautiful rangoli in front of the house of Purandara Dasa. The Dasa went ahead and composed a beautiful song on Rangoli and he first sang it before his Guru, Vyasaraja.

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