Traditional Aipan

Aipan is one of the popular traditional art (painting form), practiced in Kumaon region in the state of Uttarakhand. It is associated with great level of social, cultural and religious importance. This art of painting is known by various names and is famous in several parts of India with great variations. In Kumaon, Uttarakhand, Aipan designs are mostly drawn at the places of worship, houses along with the main entrance door and in front courtyard of the house.

Aipan is beautiful art which possesses special importance in all Kumaoni homes. The word Aipan is derived from ‘Arpan’. In the Indian culture, the art form of Aipan is passed on from generation to generation. Women carried on the patterns to their daughters and daughters-in-law. Many of these artistic designs have great religious values and these are drawn during specific religious occasions or auspicious ceremonies like naming ceremony, marriage, threading occasion, etc. to do rituals though others are for fussy God/Goddess and a few for artistic look.

Unfortunately, due to modernization in generation this art is diminishing fast and today a very few examples of this art form are available. Traditional Aipan designs of Kumaon are drawn in linear art, Flowers or imprints, and geometrical designs. These patterns are generally drawn for decorative purpose and the raw material that is used is simple Geru color and rice paste. The attractive patterns used to decorate doorways have been bespoke for gift tags, clay items, bookmarks, wooden boxes, coasters and trays.

Each and every Aipan pattern has some particular significance attached to it and is drawn with an exact purpose in mind. Here below we’ve discussed some of the most popular Aipan designs.

Different types of Aipan
1. Saraswati Chowki

Goddess Saraswati is mainly symbolized of learning. When a child starts education a puja (worship) is generally held to begin the good education life of child. The main feature of this Aipan is a five pointed star with a swastika flower or a diya in the mid. The performer then proceeds to design the center piece with floral or flowing patterns

2. Chamunda Hast Chowki

The Chamunda chowki is basically made for ‘yagyas’ or ‘havans’. The middle part of the chowki is design of two triangles interspersed with two transverse lines running diagonally both, with a 5 pointed star in between, enclosed in a circle. The gap is covered up with lakshmi's feet or flowing patterns. The circle is decorated with 8 petals of the lotus flower.

3. Nav Durga Chowki

This Aipan form is actually used during ritual Devi pujas. The essential themes here are the nine dots that show the Nav Durgas. The people who are familiar with this type of designs make a square enclosing these dots with parallel lines successively crisscross and particularly design with the lotus petal. The simplest way to form swastika is with 9 dots, also called as Nav Swastik. Although there are many variations of this, but a simpler version is by drawing three horizontal and vertical lines with a Swastika in the middle. It symbolizes formation and development and encourages people to walk ahead in the search of achievement.

4. Shiv or Shivarchan Peeth

Lord Shiva is the supremacy God in the Himalayan. He is worshipped during the months of Savan and Magh (according to Hindu calendar). 28 or 108 Parthiv Lings are reserved in the copper thali and lord Shiva is drawn on to the ground. This is 8corner design that is done with 12 dots connected by 12 lines. To make this design more striking, outside border of four plus four corners are also drawn.

5. The Surya Darshan Chowki

This Aipan is related with the birth or naming ceremony of a new child. For first 11 days the new born baby is kept indoors, and on the 11th day the baby is brought outside f or Surya Darshan. This chowki is designed on the floor where the pastor sits performing mantras.

6. Janeyu Chowki

At the time of ‘Janeo’ or holy threading ceremony, the drawing of Janeyu Aipan is necessary. The centre part is made of seven stars within a six-corner drawing. The seven stars basically symbolized the ‘Sapta Rishis’ and around this floral design are made with dots.

7. Asan Chowki

This Asan Chowki is mainly used during diverse type of Pujas. It is an adorned seat for follower and his wife for a ritual worship.

8. Dhuli Arghya Chowki :

In India the term Twilight is known as ‘Godhuli Vela’. For the wedding occasion the bridegroom’s party normally reached in the evening at the time of Twilight or sunset. In the previous days bridegroom party arrive to the bride’s place with dusty feet. Dhuli Argya Chowki is actually done to welcome bridegroom. As the groom symbolized “Narayan”, thus he is mainly greeted with devotion. His dusty feet are vigilantly washed before the puja as he stands on a tiny bench or chowkil. It also closely resembles a pitcher with Shiva’s Trident on the top or Trishul. In the center is Vishnu and at the base is Lord Brahma. On both sides of the painting, two birds (parrots) are decorated and at the bottom a Swastik as well as a lotus. All the three symbols denote fortune and are good omens.

9. Acharya Chowki

This is an aipan design which is particularly drawn for the Pandit or Acharya during the occasion of wedding. In a marriage ritual a groom is always accompanied by his own Pandit, who is given more importance than groom's father. Therefore as a result a special chowki is designed for him. Various Aipan designs are made. The lotus and other favorable signs like conch shell, bell, or sometimes even two birds (parrots) are painted just about the Swastik.

10. Durga Thapa

Durga Thapa is painted on paper by Kumaoni women for two Durga Pujas that is seized during the year, one in between the month of March to April and other before the time of Dussehra. The pujas performs for nine days and are hence caned Navratras. This drawing is highly difficult and complex. There are numerous gods and goddesses that are represented along with ten armed Goddess who rides the lion. The Buja Bali Gods- Ram and Lakshman are placed to her left. On the very right side – the Nav Durga goddess and nine headed Chandi goddess, with the temple guards at the base of the hierarchy are also find representation in this Aipan of Durga Thapa. The uppermost row in the image features the sun, Ganesh - the elephant-headed Lord who is the remover of problems, Riddhi, Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and her wife, Vishnu- The protector in the Hindu Trinity; Saraswati the goddess of learning; Brahma, the Creator and gods Gola Nath and Bhola Nath on horseback and Bala Barmi. The eight-petal led lotus within a circle is of particular significance in a Durga Puja. There are favorable symbols like conch shen, lamp, ben, tulsi, grain, rice, and swastika are drawn to augment the beauty of Goddess Durga.

11. Jyoti Patta

Among the Brahmin and Sah families, in the Kumaon region there is practice of making a "Jyoonti" at sacred proceedings like thread ceremony, naming and marriages. In the olden times "Jyoontis" were frescos adorned on the walls of the rooms where religious events held. Now these drawings are drawn of hardwood, plywood, and paper. Even the printed Jyoonti Pattas are also accessible. "Jyoonti" is the home word used for the Jeev Matrikas - Maha Laxmi, Maha Kali and Maha Saraswati. The painting of "Jyoonti" follows a meticulous pattern. The first line represents Himalayas as it is the practice to send the first summons to them. Subsequently there are lines of geometrical patterns or floral designs. One central panel has two lotus flowers on either side or a tree which signifies the legendary Kalpavriksha. Lord Brahma, the Creator of Universe, and Vishnu, the Protector, are said to dwell in the roots of the tree, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, in its trunk and his wife, Parvati, in the uppermost part of the tree.

Below the tree, there are two birds that are painted for luck and growth. The main panel is associated with three ‘Matrikas’ attended by Lord Ganesha. The mid of the panel has Krishna-Radha or even images of the groom and bride. On peak, there are the two round faces of Anyari Devi and Ujyari Devi, the presented idols over Light and Darkness. Ranking the core panel is a complex design of dots and lines known as "Bar Boond". This show an invitation as well as prayer to the gods to be there at the event of wedding and consecrate the couple.

12. Lakshmi Yantra

Lakshmi being the goddess of wealth is worshipped on the festive of Deepawali. Before the deity is kept on the place where the Puja will be held, the Lakshmi Yantra is made on to the ground with ochre color (Geru) and rice paste. This is the place of the goddess. The main point of the Yantra is marked by a flower or dot, which represents the Universe. It is enclosed in two triangles, which shapes a star with six corners. The upper triangle symbolizes lord Shiva and the lesser one, Shakti. The triangle is encircled with six or eight lotus flowers and the outer circle is enclosed with sixteen lotuses. The lotuses stand for the moon, the home, stars, and wealth. There are usually other round designs around the attraction. The circles are bounded by lines on four sides suggesting "doors" is known as "Bhupur". They represent the Earth. The entire drawing is decorated at various points with Lakshmi's footprints.

Below the Lakshmi Yantra are represented two puja seats or "asanas" for the couple who do the puja. On the other hand, these seats could be destined for the head member of the family and the priest who performs the ceremony. In most Kumaoni families instead of a metal statue or clay of Lakshmi, sugarcane is cut and kept across. Traditional female wear like a lahanga (long skirt) and Odhni (shaw!) garnish the sugarcane to make it resemble like a female form. Therefore is the lovability of life invited with ceremony precision to supervise over a household.

Some other Art types

The Shaukas use their knitting and Tibetan knitting art form to adorn mattresses called Dans. In these woolen goods one can experience the mixed influence of the Kumaon and Tibetan styles. Kumaoni people also possesses a typical style of making diverse baskets like Doka, Tokri, Dala,; wooden casks such as Theki, Naliya, Harpia etc. for keeping butter, curd, and ghee; mattresses and ropes etc.

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