A tradition to colour your talents

Ingenious Colourful rangoli during the Maruthi Utsav in Karwar.

Maruthi Galli in the coastal town of Karwar is usually quiet and tranquil for the most part of the year. The lane in the heart of the city winds up into an ancient Maruthi Temple. The families on this stretch share an everlasting bond with the temple and its annual celebrations like the Maruthi Utsav, which falls in the last week of December, or in the first week of January.

Just before the event, families armed with brooms and mops spruce up their homes and get busy in the preparation of lip-smacking sweets and savouries. Maruthi Galli is all hustle and bustle as the festive mood sets in with torans made of mango leaves adorning every house.

It’s time for the birds to return to their nests during this part of the year. Younger generations, who have migrated to greener pastures, thrive to visit the coastal town during the Maruthi Utsav. For them, no other festival is more pertinent than a family reunion during this occasion.

During the two-day Utsav, the day dawns with the mellifluous sounds of the temple bells, the recital of mantras, the fragrance of the incense sticks, the scent of the burning camphor and the smell of roses, giving a heady mix of devotional concoction that drifts from the temple and onto the streets. Unlike fancy stalls, the jarring loudspeakers, the babel of hawkers and the serial lights that form the essentials of a Jathra, the Maruthi Utsav begs to be different.

After all the chatter and banter and the completion of rituals and routine, the families now get busy drawing rangolis on the street. Some spend hours under the blazing sun, undeterred by the reflections of the passer-by, engrossed in their masterpieces. And lo! by evening, the entire stretch is transformed into an art lane.

Drawing rangolis during Maruthi Utsav has caught up with the families to such an extent that even residents in the adjacent lanes have also followed suit. What began on a humble note with womenfolk drawing traditional rangolis to welcome their guests during the Utsav, has now assumed monumental proportions.

The speciality of rangolis is such that women just dab their hands in flour and colours. The flour slips from the deft fingers of these women onto the stretch into beautiful designs. These rangolis have caught the fancy of youths, and the event witnesses dedicated participation by the younger lot too. Of late, artists are being roped in by the families to win coveted prizes.

The rangolis are often confused with paintings by visitors. From archaic to modern, traditional to contemporary, specific to abstract, dotted to curves, shading to highlighting, the techniques too are varying. Forget the luxury of an open space or a dedicated art gallery, the stretch and the sky are all that the participants are left with to experiment. For these energetic residents, Maruthi Galli is their canvass and flour their medium.

From mythological characters, village scenes, historical moments, eminent actors, leaders, sportspeople, achievers, a blockbuster movie, the Kumbh Mela or the Lok Sabha elections to the damsel who bagged Miss World, the artists are spoilt for choice.

The Utsav is now a platform for many artists who deserve to be in the limelight. Says artist Vishnu Naik, “It’s an honour to display my talent at the Maruthi Utsav for public admiration. It’s challenging to make it a different experience for the audience every year.” The subject is zeroed in during the preliminary round of talks by the residents and artists. A rough sketch is readied for approval by the artists, along with appropriate colour combination, shade, texture and also the quantity of flour required. A few rangolis of huge proportions are prepared much in advance on cardboards and placed directly on the stretch on the D-day, says Ramanath Bhat, a resident of Maruthi Galli.

Shrinivas Panchamukhi has come all the way from Bagalkot to watch rangolis. “Initially, I mistook them for paintings. After paying obeisance to God, paying obeisance to art is what makes Maruthi Utsav special,” he adds.

The celebrations stretch past midnight even as people keep thronging Maruthi Galli till the dawn. Click, click, click... go the cameras, the mobile phones... After Pallakki Utsav and Mosaru Kudike, it is curtains to the two-day event.

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A tradition to colour your talents

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