School girl waiting for her part, Alpona Gram

Alpona Gram: the village of paintings

The entire area of Kapali Para is now full of excitement. It’s no longer an invisible hamlet but abuzz with the arrival of tourists almost every day.

Since Sanskar Bharati along with some Government Agencies started working with the villagers, this area has seen a huge aesthetic transformation in last couple of years. Sanskar Bharati is an organization that works for the promotion of Indian art and culture. Together they are trying to revive and promotion of the art of Alpana. That is how the Alpana Gram, the village of paintings came into the picture in tourism. Today Alpana Gram is all set to celebrate the Poush Sankranti with their Pitha-puli and Alpana.

To start with Alpona is an ancient Bengali tradition of hand paintings geometrical or free-hand motifs using a paste of rice powder. Predominantly it is white, but colours can be added using natural ingredients like turmeric powder for yellow and red clay with vermillion paste for crimson. Mainly practised by women, this tradition is passed from generation to generation and tangles with an aspect of self-expression. It is believed that the designs drawn on the floor have a magical power and bring good omen.

This tradition is known by various names in different parts of the country like in Bihar it is called Aripana, Jinnuti in Odisha, Kolam in Tamil Nadu, Apna in Almora and Nainital. At the end of kharif season, this tradition also means an offering of rice flour to the mother earth and the tiny creatures like earthworms, ants and birds as ones good deed of the day. This is why it is popular mostly in the rice-producing regions in the country. Further, rice powder is a cleansing element which is traditionally attributed to preventing chickenpox during the summer.

Alpana gram is a small village in Lankamura, 6-7 kilometres from the capital Agartala. Here people, Government Agencies and other Organizations are trying to fight back and revive this tradition which is disappearing with time against the ease of chemical paint-dripping brush strokes or worse, plastic sticker rangolis. We can reach this place from Akhaura Road as well as Usha Bazar, Airport road. We took the Akhaura Road and the condition of the road was very bad. Parking is available and locals are supportive as they offer you yummy rice-based dumplings, called pitha. You can visit the entire area by 50-60 mins.

From grinding the rice to making the paste and creating the designs are time-taking and laborious job. But we need to preserve it, protect it and maybe contribute to improving it. This was holding Bengali society together with its nostalgic memories and designs. Now it’s our turn.