Throughout the subcontinent of India, women of all ages, castes, and professions, perform the traditional art of threshold painting. It is known as muggu in Andhra Pradesh; rangoli in Maharashtra and Gujarat; chowk purana in Uttar Pradesh; mandana in Rajasthan; alpana in Bengal; chita in Orissa; and kolam in Tamil Nadu. Although the styles of design and frequency with which it is painted vary from region to region, the symbolic meaning of this art form is the same: it links Hindu women to the goddess Lakshmi whom they invite to depart her heavenly abode and rest momentarily at their thresholds upon an intricate rice flour diagram. In this manner, the Goddess brings good fortune, enveloping the home in an auspicious sphere of protection.
In a variety of ways, threshold art reflects the Hindu concept of the interconnectedness of the universe. This is symbolized even in the use of flowers as an artistic medium. It is said that the kolam is the “feeder of a thousand souls” providing nourishment to the smallest of insects throughout the day. Also central to Hinduism is the experiential act of devotion. The painting of a kolam is correspondingly devotional. It is an act of creation, in which ones personal relationship with the gods is most important. For in a fleeting moment the creation will disappear, vividly remaining only in the memory of the one who created it.