A ritualistic folk art native to the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, Aipan is often drawn to commemorate auspicious occasions, festivals, and sometimes even during the death rites of a person.
Aipan is taken from the word lepana in Sanskrit, which means plaster. It is native to festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Makar Sankranti, Maha Shivaratri and Lakshmi Pujan.
Aipan art flourished during the rule of the Chand dynasty in Kumaon. It is believed to have originated in Almora and gradually found its way to other parts of the region due to the migration of people and communities practising the art. Earlier, the art form was found on the floors and walls of houses. However, with time, it has also come to be found on many daily objects and clothing pieces.
First and foremost, a red-coloured smooth surface is prepared by using geru (wet mud), which is red in colour. A white paste called bisvar, which is used to draw patterns on the surface is made by grinding cooked rice in water. However, many households also use red-and-white synthetic enamel paints and acrylic colours these days. Usually, Aipam art is practised by women, who pass on their knowledge of it from one generation to the next. They use their fore, ring, and middle finger to draw the patterns.
The designs that form a part of Aipan art are inspired by the religious beliefs of the communities who practice it. Generally, the designs include flowers, geometric designs, conch shells, swastika, footsteps of goddesses, and figures of gods and goddesses.
Interestingly, Aipan art starts and ends with a dot. Placed in the centre at the beginning, the dot represents the core of the universe. All the other lines and patterns emerge from the middle, indicating the changing form of the world around it.
There are many types of Aipan, all having different purposes. These include Chamunda Hast Chowki (for havans and yagyas), Saraswati Chowki (for education and learning), Nav Durga Chowki (for Devi pujas), Janeyu Chowki (for threading ceremony), and Asan Chowki (for ritual worship), among others.
Meanwhile, art forms similar to Aipan can be found in other parts of India, including Alpona (Bengal and Assam), Aripana (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh), Mandana (Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh), Kolam (South India), Muggu (Andhra Pradesh), Alpana (Odisha) and Bhuggul (Andhra Pradesh).