SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Under the guidance of her mother, Sudha Ravi began making rangolis when she was five years old.
Today, the local rangoli artist, in her 40s, and her daughter, Rakshita Ravi, 17, have four entries in the Singapore Book Of Records for their colourful, detailed and larger-than-life rangoli art pieces.
They achieved their latest record in January with a rangoli measuring about 6m by 6m, made with 26,000 ice-cream sticks.
Rangoli, which means “an array of colours” in Sanskrit, is a traditional Indian art form where patterns are created on a flat surface, such as the floor.
The patterns are usually created using coloured rice flour outside a home’s front door to symbolise wealth, joy, prosperity and thanksgiving to deities.
Sudha, a full-time sales support officer in a local bank, said that she had enjoyed making rangolis since she was a child, but it became her passion after she moved to Singapore about 20 years ago.
“Here in Singapore, there’s a lot of encouragement of cultural activities, arts and science. So I thought, we have to make the most of it,” she said.
She began making rangolis for friends and temple events nine years ago. Friends then encouraged her to create rangolis that would make it to the Singapore Book Of Records.
Since then, she and her daughter have set records in 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023.
Their latest record-holding work made of ice-cream sticks was created for Tamil cultural organisation Kalamanjari, and was displayed on Jan 21 at its Pongal celebration, which was supported by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association. Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil community.
The rangoli, which took about a month to complete, featured four prominent Tamil scholar-poets – Thiruvalluvar, Avvaiyar, Bharathi and Bharathidasan. The design was inspired by Kalamanjari and its goal of promoting Tamil literary works through song and dance.
“We bought the ice-cream sticks in bulk from India and painted them with acrylic paint. We pasted the sticks and did the drawing on top of them... completely freehand,” said Sudha.
“For about a month, we would work on it after I came back from work and my daughter from school. We would spend about four hours on the piece every day, on average.”
Using ice-cream sticks proved to be challenging, said Sudha.
“Painting the faces on the sticks was the major challenge as the surface was not even and the texture was rough,” she explained.
“Each colour needed two to three coatings, and shading on the faces was a challenge.
“But the end product is very good, and we are very happy about it.”
But ice-cream sticks are not the only unusual materials the mother-daughter duo have used. In 2022, they created RangoliChops – a 3m-by-3m rangoli made up of 7,200 chopsticks. It earned them their third Singapore record, which they share with the Nee Soon South Indian Activity Executive Committee.
Rakshita, a first-year aerospace engineering student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, designed the ice-cream stick rangoli digitally.
The teen started making rangolis with her mother when she was nine, and was only 12 when they set their first record in 2018.
She said: “I have been very passionate about rangolis since my mum introduced me to this form of art... I want to take this culture into the future, pass it down to my future kids, and create it digitally as well.”
Her mother said that making rangolis together has helped to improve their relationship.
“We are the best support system for each other. We do dance reels together and appreciate each other’s work,” said Sudha.
“Of course, petty conflicts arise, but we tackle them in a healthy way.”
When asked about their plans, she replied: “We hope to break more records, maybe the Guinness World Records in the future.”