For Madhulika Srikanth of India, drawing pictures with sand is a ritual. Each year in India, Srikanth gets together with friends and family to form intricate sand patterns in front of her home. This year, Srikanth will share her country’s centuries-old tradition with the people of Wichita.
On Saturday, members of the Association of Hindu Students in America at Wichita State University will demonstrate the art of rangoli. Many of the society’s members will wear traditional dress as they carefully place pink, green, aqua and yellow particles into a pattern on the floor of the Ulrich Museum’s second floor gallery.
This traditional art form is usually performed by women during “Diwali” or the Festival of Lights. This festival, which honors the goddess Lakshmi, takes place in the fall. Each day, new drawings are constructed; old ones are destroyed, and the cycle begins anew.
“Everybody gets together. My mother cooks,” Srikanth said. “It feels so good.”
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The artwork serves as a welcome to family and friends. The pieces also symbolize protection and prosperity. The goddess Lakshmi represents material and spiritual wealth, as well as beauty and generosity.
The chemically died sand and salt have replaced the turmeric and beet dyed flour and limestone mixtures. But the camaraderie, meditative process and beautiful results remain constant. Steeped in tradition, rangoli continues to thrive.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase talent,” Srikanth said. “This is not a common art form in the U.S.”
Officials at the Ulrich are excited to open up their doors to both the WSU and Wichita community.
“This is a creative art form that as a community we don’t see on a regular basis in Wichita,” said Aimee Geist, curator of education. “This is an opportunity to expand our artistic experiences.”
On Saturday, the public can dip their fingers into the sand and create designs, making this a sensory exhibit. The Hindu association also will offer traditional food for sale, music and carnival-type activities.
Srikanth, a mechanical engineering doctoral student, is excited to once again let the sand drift through her delicate hands, down her fingers and onto the floor. She knows instinctively how much to let escape, where to hold back and how to create pleasing designs. Srikanth learned these techniques from her elders and is excited to demonstrate them this weekend.
On Sunday, visitors can view the sand designs and marvel at their intricacies.
Members of the Hindu Society welcome onlookers to participate in this event, or to just watch. They said the art serves to open communication and welcome the community, just as the rangoli tradition serves to greet both friends and strangers.