Rangoli, Alpana, Kolam,Muggulu, Puvidal, Mandana , Chauk….. you can call it by any name but different patterns adorned on ground on various auspicious occasions all over India speak one language and that is of celebration, welcome and devotion.

In South India drawing the geometrical patterns at the entrance and Pooja room is a daily ritual. Different states have specific design patterns for specific occasions and specific Gods too. In South India these patterns are drawn with dry powder or wet paste of rice powder while in North India it is made with dry wheat flour. With the passage of time various other mediums are also being used to draw Rangolis. Innovations and experiments with new design patterns are also seen but the spirit of these motifs still reverberate on the same tune.

The design galore on ghats of Varanasi on Dev Deepawali day was spectacular.The magnificent display of patterns, designs, colors and lights was mesmerizing.Ghats after ghats one could see old ladies to young girls busy in drawing designs, filling those with colors, decorating with diyas.  Witnessing  three generations involved enthusiastically to fill the world with beauty and sacredness gave a deep reassuring feel. Air was filled with Shlokas, Bhajans.Innumerable lighted earthen lamps in flower bowls floated slowly, rhythmically, steadily on quiet Ganges. These tiny dots of light on wide  waters of holy river bathed in inky darkness filled the heart with gratitude and peace. Big round moon in the sky smiled benevolently  as if granting boon.

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All pics by Sunder Iyer.

As I sat there  amidst the stacks of prayer stones erected all over that particular hill at Talacauveri, I could feel the potent energy, the sanctity of the prayers said by various unknown people over the period of time. Those prayer mounds or the stacks of stones stood like folded hands raised in silent prayers towards the sky over head. Slowly moving rhythmic wind like a fairy with soft dainty steps halted besides the stacks and the stones whispered the prayers entrusted to them in her ever attentive ears. She in turn passed it on to fluffy clouds floating endlessly on the blue expanse of sky and clouds, the eternal carriers ensured that the prayers spread across the entire universe binding all of us in one thread of sacred brotherhood. What a blissful feeling it was, to be one with the moment and the entire world.

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I looked at those prayer stones and could imagine hands carefully choosing  and picking the stones that touched their soul, communicated to their hearts. Picking the stones for prayer stacks in itself  is an exercise of total mindfulness, of getting merged with the moment. Then placing stone upon stone with total concentration, balancing them one upon other with utmost care ensuring that the stack remained intact that in itself is akin to meditation. During the entire process one gets totally merged with the prayer and that complete surrender imparts the potent energy to the prayers .
One can also add pebbles to already existing stacks. when one carefully places a stone to an existing stack, our prayers and our thoughts merge with those of others who placed those stones earlier to us and thus the impact of prayers intensifies, each energizing other. What an enriching feeling this belief gives. Unknown we might be for one another yet we stand tied with that ethereal bond.

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Rocks and stones have been used as an expression of our spiritual urge from times immemorial. Be it rock cut temples, images of Gods and Goddesses carved out of rocks or a stone kept under sacred trees and worshiped with all rituals, all these are manifestations of our sacred thoughts but these stacks of prayer stones are perhaps the earliest expressions of our spirituality.
Those mounds or stacks of prayer stones dotting the entire hill stood there under the open sky bearing the rains, the wind and other vagaries of weather. They as if represented firm beliefs withstanding all the tests of time and life.

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer