Rangoli Frescoes Found in Rajasthan
I was watching Hitch the nth time and like every time Will Smith’s character Hitch says
Hitch: Heard of Michelangelo? Heard of the Sistine Chapel?
[Points at himself]
[Points at Albert]
Hitch: Sistine Chapel.
Albert: So you’re saying you can make this work?
Hitch: My name is Alex Hitchens. Let’s go paint that ceiling.
Now please look at the picture below it is a rangoli design right? But it is not painted on the floor it is painted on the ceiling! The central sphere that you see is actually the ventral view of the chandelier on the roof, making the 3 D light melt into a 2 dimensional image.
Long before Michelangelo painted Sistine Chapel scores of nameless artists in India have carved stone ceilings in temples from Khajuraho to Hampi to Dilwara Jain Temples in Rajasthan. At places the stone carvings were so delicate that you can see the lines on the hands of the figurines (like in Dilwara Jain Temples where photography is not allowed). You will all agree that it is not easy to carve in a stone in the ceiling of a temple. At many places in older temples and havelis of Shekhawati in Rajasthan you find these delicately painted ceilings depicting the day to day life of rural India. But this is a lost art with so called modern design concepts edging out the traditional decorative motives now all you find on ceilings is plain paint and may be a glitzy chandelier that originated in some remote factory in China and is too happy to be out of its claustrophobic container on reaching India.
But like I always say I love staying in places that have Character. The character could be in form of its History like in Lakshman Sagar in Pali district of Rajasthan, or it could be its owners who bring the old world charm to the place like Mr.Ravindran of Pranavam Home Stay in Wayanad Kerala.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered there reverse rangolis on the ceilings of corridors of our Hotel in Bharatpur Rajasthan. We were there on a birding trip and booked the hotel for its proximity to Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur Rajasthan. While we had a great birding trip with kids enjoying the bird sightings as well as the road trip. But besides birds we also loved our quaint little hotel built using design elements from traditional havelis of Rajasthan, and I was most impressed with the Rangoli designs made on its ceilings around chandeliers.
I was initially skeptical if the designs are hand painted or it is some kind of sticker so checked with the owner of the hotel Mr. Sikarwal, and he confirmed that each design has been hand painted by local artists. My respect to these local painters increased many folds and I decided to click pictures of the rangoli patterns on the roof and share with readers of desi Traveler.
But before we go further you may want to check the following posts about Rangoli designs in India
- Ethnic Rural Rangoli designs
- Modern Rangoli designs in Pondicherry
- Innovative Rangoli designs using unconventional materials
From a design perspective these rangolis on the ceilings are simple geometrical patterns clearly influenced by Islamic art as they use floral geometrical patterns that are very precise on symmetry. It is not surprising because right from early Islamic rule to Mughal Period there was a lot of blending of Indian art forms with Islamic aesthetics. So my guess is that these Rangolis got there tradition from decorating home fronts during auspicious occasions while the designs were picked up from the floral motifs you find in Islamic architecture in India from Taj Mahal to Golconda Fort.
The corners of the ceiling as well as the border just below the ceiling were also hand painted. There is a possibility that the artists may have used a stencil to speed up the process, but still it is awesome work of art, considering even if you use a stencil to paint, you still need to pain each of the leaf, flower, line manually. In various other Havelis in Rajasthan you will find intricately made frescoes that depict the daily life in Rajasthan of the time the Havelis were built. While those havelis were commissioned by rich merchants and local kings, the rangoli frescoes we found were painted on the celing of a modern hotel though built in a traditional Rajasthan Haveli style.
Ever since then I always look at design elements in the hotels, home stays and resorts I stay because you never know when in a remote corner of Incredible India I may find a hidden gem that signifies a tradition thousands of years old.
Note: These designs were clicked in Hotel Kiran Villa Palace in Bharatpur, Rajasthan during a birding trip.
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