Aipan – Art from the Himalayas

aipan, uttarkhand

The snow in the Himalayas dictates the intensity of the cold in North India but somehow the art and craft forms of the region seem to have had less of an impact on the rest of the country. I reckon it’s time to change this, and we begin by talking about Aipan, an art from the Himalayas. This art form is believed to have originated amongst the people of the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand between 7th and the 11th centuries. I suppose it’s time to bring a little ‘Aipen’ into your life…

What exactly is Aipan?

It is a kind of painting that traditionally includes geometrical designs typically for religious and decorative purposes. These patterns are passed down generations, and are drawn using a paste made out of white rice against a background of ‘geru’ aka ochre, created using red clay.

Aipan translates to ‘likhai’ in the Hindi language, which simply means writing. Hence, Aipan really is free-hand writing with the use of natural colours. Well, today of course, you will be able to spot chemical variations as well as ready-made stickers of the Aipan designs, just like in everything else today.

Aipan, Rangoli and more

Familiar with the term ‘Rangoli’? Am sure you are…Rangoli competitions held across housing societies and in offices, is almost a competitive sport across India. Just like Bollywood took shape in Maharashtra, so did the term, ‘Rangoli’ and today, both are well-known across the globe and it’s time to delve a little deeper into various kinds of Rangoli.

Did you know that this kind of free-hand drawing is known as Alpana in West Bengal, Kolam in Tamil Nadu, Mandana in Rajasthan and of course, Aipan in the hills of Uttarakhand.  The natural materials and the styles used across regions to create the patterns vary hugely. They are similar yet, different! All these variations of Aipan are found in places of worship and also in homes, especially at the entrance.

Uniqueness Quotient of Aipan

Firstly, it uses red earth powder (referred to as ‘geru’) and more importantly, the use of the ‘dots’ is what makes it unique and different from other similar art forms.  The lines in the patterns are surrounded by ‘dots’ and the dot signifies the completeness or wholeness!

Aipan in your Life

The Aipan designs and patterns can be spotted on textiles as well as on furniture, and both on fashion and home accessories. Have a look:

aipen, bag, accessories, handmade
Carry a little ‘Uttarakhand’ with you..Aipan bag; Sold by: Uttarakhand Crafts
tray, handmade, aipan, home
The geometric designs with the perfect dots…An Aipan tray; Sold by EMalhar
aipan, stationery; notebook, handmade, india
A little ‘Aipan’ inspiration for the writer in you’ ; Sold by: Project Aipan
nuts, jar, aipan, terracota
Soak your almonds and seeds in this terracota ‘Aipan’ jar; Sold by: Doodlefy

There are several different ‘Aipans’ for different occasions; will leave discussing that for another time.

For now, soak in the beauty of the art forms prevalent in the hills, the gorgeousness and simplicity of the lives of the people who create this art…Bring a little ‘Aipan’ into your life when you can.  I hope you can draw some inspiration to create your own Aipan-piece or alternatively, hunt down an Aipan artist and chat to them about their work.

Appreciate the stories behind a craft; Be Notjustashopper!


Cover Image: Media India Group


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