Since time immemorial man has painted his mark. What began as an affirmation of the presence of mankind, painting grew into a means for communication. And in Bengal painting assumed the form of a prayer. A ritual called Alpana.
Alpana is an art form intrinsically linked to vows sworn in front of the Almighty, for the fulfilment of your desires. The motifs drawn in each Alpana differ with each corresponding vow. But the roots to this traditional art form didn’t start with prayers and pledges to the Gods and Goddesses. They were painted onto the pots and vases in an era as old as the Indus Valley Civilization, when the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro flourished. It was only later that they transformed into a medium for prayers.
Traditionally the Alpana was painted with a finger as the brush and a rice-paste as the paint. The art was passed from the women of one generation to the women of the next. The rites and rituals connected with each Alpana were painstakingly taught to the T. Today, the art has been replaced with acrylic paints and stickers. And with the explosion of more options and mediums to express yourself, the need for painting Alpanas is gradually disappearing.
Rabi Biswas, a young artisan is among the few who are tirelessly working towards the revival of Alpana. Taught by his grandmother, the art of Alpana had transfixed him early on and it is this very passion that takes him places to spread the art. Today he is considered an authority on Alpana and his workshops are highly admired and appreciated.