The art of floor painting is a personal, individual offering to the gods through a medium which has generated an extravagant array of motifs and patterns. The canvas is the floor of the home and the material used is obtained from the kitchen shelves. This ritual art for wish fulfilment and protection is practised by women through the year and with special devotion during festival time. Immersed in ancient ritualistic practices, the alpana has become a common form of decoration and is today an integral part of Bangladeshi culture. Alpana or alipana is an indigenous word, deshaju meaning the art of drawing ali (embankment or wall).
From primitive times alpanas have been a part of the magic-religious practice of brata, a vow observed by women for the fulfilment of a cherished desire. Each brata has its own alpana, which at the time of its performance is drawn on the ground with rice powder paste. Drawn freehand, the alpana must clearly depict the object the bratee (devotee) desires, otherwise its result will be nullified. Assigned and bound in its enclosure, the woman draws motifs symbolising her wishes and at a given time and place she invokes the blessings of the power that works in heaven and on earth. There are said to be over seventy bratas with their numerous presiding deities. The quality of art is secondary in importance to the symbols and objects drawn as the meaning and the desire supersedes the decorated and artistic element.
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