The fine arts of Uttaranchal are decidedly geometric with a natural grace and simplified complexity. One will find almost every home and place of worship decorated with some kind of mural done either as a proper wall painting or in the form of Aipan and Peeth. Though very similar, Aipan and Peeth entirely differ in their work of what we would call ‘interior decoration’ nowadays.
This folk art form dictates the lives of people in Uttarakhand and is practiced usually by women. Their knowledge passed to the succeeding generations in inheritance, handed down from mothers to daughters and daughters-in-law.
Aipan, Alpana, Arichan, Aripana, Kolam and Rangoli are one and the same, only the name differs with the language. Aipan or Aepan (alternatively spelled) is basically a drawing done on the floor near the entrance door and front courtyard of a house. Though this art is decorative and is made everyday, it is given special treatment with elaborate designs on festivals. Along with Peeth, Aipan is a fast disappearing art form and very few patterns and designs are available today for reference.
An Aipan is made with ‘Geru’ or red vermillion paste as a base and rice paste patterns on top. This pristine white on deep red gives out a beautiful contrast emphasizing the designs. The rice paste is made by soaking any rice for about 16 hours and then grinding it into a fine paste with a medium to runny consistency. The ring finger of the right hand is used to draw the elaborate patterns with help of cotton balls or cloth on occasions such as birth, Janeu (sacred thread ceremony), marriage, death and festivals.
Peeth is a type of ‘mural’ made around the seating area of Gods and Goddesses with a base of rice paste decorated with colorful natural dyes. The main difference between Aipan and Peeth is the fact that Peeth uses specific designs for each god or goddess whereas in Aipan any design can be used according to the mood of the artist. The Peeth patterns are made around ‘Chowki’ made of auspicious Mango wood with fingers of right hand. The drawings are usually geometric in nature with flowers, animals, divine feet and trees making up the interiors of the design.