The word comes from the Sanskrit word Rangaavali – which itself is a combination of two words – Rang, meaning colour and Aavali meaning creepers or lines. Rangaavali, or Rangoli, as we call it today, thus, literally translates into ‘coloured lines’ and that is what it essentially is – lines drawn in colour – inside or outside the house. It could be a celebration of a festival, an expression of happiness, a sign of welcome, a symbol of cleanliness and purity… but all it is, essentially, is lines of colour.
Rangolis are something you can see in every corner of India, no matter where you go. It is mostly a Hindu tradition, but I have seen Rangolis outside churches in southern India too, and some of my Muslim friends are as adept at it as I am!