At Enactus IPCW, we work with a group of middle-aged women residing in the Timarpur region of North Delhi, with the aim of reviving their ancient art form Aipan. Aipan is a beautiful form of art hailing from Kumaon district of Uttrakhand. It is made on the floors using white rice against the backdrop of red Geru.
A few tête-à-têtes with these ladies give you an insight into the beautiful cultural heritage that is Kumaon.
Mrs. Manju, who hails from Peepli village in the district of Almora, Kumaon, says that the culture of Kumaon has been fast diminishing. She tells us that she and her husband shifted to Delhi almost a decade back. She misses her village and the beautiful mountains of Uttarakhand, and her life back in Kumaon. Nothing makes her happier than talking about her culture.
A quick glance across her living room tells you that she is very fond of Aipan. She has imperfect yet beautiful Aipan patterns drawn at the threshold of every room and she proudly tells us that she made them herself. We ask her where she learnt this art from, and she tells us that she has seen her mother and grandmother making it back in her village. We further enquire about the meaning and auspiciousness of these patterns, to which she replies she doesn’t have much idea.
“We have seen our older generations making Aipan on auspicious occasions like festivals and weddings. We don’t know what these lines and curves signify, but they are said to bring good luck to the family,” says her husband, Mr. Bisht. “In fact, very few Kumaoni families residing in Delhi prefer making Aipan designs on their own. They go for the viable option of ready-made sticker Aipan designs.”
However, Mrs. Manju strongly opposes the idea of ready-made Aipan stickers. She thinks that the intervention of luxury and western comforts in their lives have resulted in the diminishment of their own culture. She tries to fit in the elements of Kumaoni culture into her day-to-day city life by simple practices such as conversing in their native Kumaoni language, cooking Kumaoni dishes (her favourite sweet is Baal Mithai), making sure that her Aipan designs are hand-made, and performing Kumaoni rituals. Doing her bit in preserving her culture gives her immense satisfaction.
She shows us the wedding album of her daughter’s marriage, in which she points out that a dupatta with a Shankh (conch shell) design on it and a huge nose-ring are an imperative part of the Kumaoni bride’s attire. Her favourite part of the wedding functions, she says, is dancing to the tunes of the music of Kumaon.
Since we are working on reviving Aipan, it is absolutely delightful to meet women like Mrs. Manju, who are so enthusiastic about keeping their culture alive. Through days, she has become a favourite amongst all the members of Enactus IPCW. We simply love working with her, and her zeal for reviving her culture motivates us to take our project forward.