Monday, November 1, 2010

Jhoti, Chita, Muruja

Women all over India practice their traditional way of decorating the house walls and floors by Rangoli and various patterns. These folk arts are believed to bring glory to the festivals.. and these are also believed as the harbinger of  prosperity and happiness. Usually these art forms are practiced by rural women though few urban women do the same to maintain the religious and ritual heritage associated with it. By the way I am not among those women who use to do the same for any religious purposes. Although I am not perfect doing these folk arts, I continue to do sometimes because I love it. Rather some sentiments are associated with these- some nostalgia. It reminds me of my childhood and college going period of my life. I remind how every festival used to be the occasion of great merriment with all the associated arrangements including these arts which decorated not only the terrace and floors of our house but also minds and hearts of all of us. I remind how various traditional cakes (Pithas) and various traditional cuisines were being prepared by my mother and grand mother. My mother is not that good in doing the Jhoti or Muruja but my grand mother used to be very proficient in that. I learned doing Jhoti from her only. She was so sweet to make all my festivals great with the touch of her affectionate fingers. Her preparation of traditional food like various vegetable curry, Green leaf preparations, and traditional Odia Dalma, Khechudi etc were so tasty that I miss those even after five years of her death. My responsibility was then to draw Jhotis or Muruja on the special occasions like Manabashaa Gurubaara, Kaartika, Dola, Jhulana etc. I was made so happy when the relatives and other guests coming to home used to appreciate the Jhotis and Chitas I drew. If somebody didn't say anything or a word of appreciation, my grandmother would say her- "See how my grand daughter has prepared this Jhoti so beautifully...." then the somebody would definitely be compelled to say a "Wow"... ha ha..

Lets come back to the topic. By Jhoti and chita we mean the folk art drawn on floor and walls. The main and only thing used doing Jhoti is a semi-liquid paste of rice. And fingers become the brush to make it. Muruja (Rangoli) is the coloured or white powders usually made of rice powder or fine sand and the colour mixed in that. It is also drawn on floor with the help of fingers. Some women make the muruja (Rangoli) with flowers. [In Odisha we call it muruja and its universal name in India is Rangoli].... Rural women in Odisha use to draw several figures and flower patterns on the mud wall of their thatched houses. Those look very beautiful. Before painting on wall usually they put a background colour named as Dhau. Its semi red and orange mixed, brown or muddy type of colour. Dhau is also used by few people while drawing Jhoti on the floor as the background colour. Thanks to the Bhubaneswar Development Authority who painted the associated walls of roads in Bhubaneswar with the traditional wall Chitas, as a result of which Bhubaneswar is looking very beautiful. In Cuttack also Sea-shore company and a bank has taken similar steps to paint the walls of ring road... It also has brought glory to the beauty of Cuttack city. Usually those folk arts welcome the daity of prosperity (Mother Laxmi). It seems as if Bhubaneswar and Cuttack the city-duo is welcoming mother Laxmi..

Wall Chitaa-1

The above pictures are samples of wall chita. Its called Dhana shishaa or (the heap of paddy after it is winnowed). It is drawn by sprinkling the rice paste through finger nails and the dots are made using tips. It is usually drawn on mud walls but now a days it has also become as a fashion for urban dwellers  to paint their walls with these folk arts. This Chita is known to be the symbol of prosperity. I have not drawn all these....just have taken the snap somewhere. :) 
Wall Chitaa-2

The above picture is taken at Raghrajpur village. It's a sample of wall chita which is drawn surrounding the door.
Wall Chitaa-3   

The above jhoti painting is drawn surrounding window. It's drawn on the basis of traditional Saura tribal art. 

Wall Chitaa-4

The above wall chita is based on the concept of four adorns of Lord Vishnu or Lord Jagannath namely Sankha (the conch shell), Chakra (the wheel), Gadaa (the hammer) and Padma (the lotus)...and also there is the symbol of prosperity (Dhaana Shisaa) depicting the presence of Goddess Laxmi.

Wall Chitaa-5

The above wall chita is based on finger tips style; in other words in this type of jhoti finger tip is used to make the dots.

Wall Chitaa- 6

Wall Chitaa- 7

Wall Chitaa- 8

Wall Chitaa- 9

Wall Chitaa- 10

Wall Chitaa- 11

In Odisha women practice Jhoti, Rangoli and Chita during several special festivals. And those also carry the implication of those special occasions carrying different names. Now I would describe about floor Jhoti and Chita only. Jhoti and Chita is drawn on the floor of houses and in front of the main door of the houses in several auspicious occasions like several religious and social functions including marriage and sacred thread ceremony. It is believed that good fortune enters into the house passing through beautifully drawn Jhotis.... It is also very true good fortune only resides there where there is cleanliness, sanctity, devotion, beauty, love and harmony. And jhotis are nothing but the symbolical representation of those virtues. 

I would narrate a story here. The story is all about how Goddess Laxmi got impressed by the cleanliness, sense of beauty and devotion of a sweeper woman and blessed her with abundant wealth...    

The Universal Lord, Lord Jagannath is unique not only because he is incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Kaniyuga (era of Kali) but also because his temple culture carry all time messages for society,  humanity and life on earth. He along with his siblings and wife seem to be maintaining a life style and daily cores as we people have our own. His morning starts from brushing teeth, taking breakfast and ends at listening to songs or watching  to dance and sleeping at night as we watch television and relax at night. In Jagannath culture human emotions are clearly depicted. Even the Gods feel warm, cold with change of the seasons and his temple works change accordingly. So every year during peak summer Lord Jagannath and his siblings (Lord Balabhadra and Debi Subhadra) take bath with 108 vessels of water taken from a well in the temple premises. They get cold and fever after excessive bath and the fever remains for 21 days when they take rest only by taking a medicine called Dashamula prepared by Ayurvedic doctors. Goddess Laxmi although is wife of Lord Jagannath could not participate in their bathing session due to some social restrictions for women that they would maintain shyness in the presence of brother-in-law. When the three deities recovered from illness they started a pleasant trip to their aunts home at Gundicha temple for some change. But they didn't inform Goddess Laxmi. As a wife would mind if his husband goes for a pleasant trip with someone else without taking her and asking her, Godess Laxmi also felt very bad. And she took her sweet revenge by making the wheels of their wooden cars break by her people in the mid of night. Subsequently the Lords came to know about the acts of Laxmi and remained silent. But when the three deities came back temple home after their nine days trip Goddess Laxmi didn't let them enter into the temple. As any wife she also wanted respect and attention. When her husband Lord Jagannath made her convince through his sweet words only she changed her mind. But that was a big insult for big brother Lord Balabhadra what he never did forget.

If husband won't take wife for a trip, the wife would go by her own for some change because everyone loves an outing which refreshes mind. Again Goddess Laxmi is the mother of whole universe so she made a trip in the month of maargashira (the month of November) with an intention to see how her children were living. She saw women welcoming on her way by decorating their neat and clean houses by Rangoli and jhoti patterns, from where the sweet smell of various cake were coming...She entered into a house which was very much clean, tidy and dazzling by beautiful jhoti patterns although that house was a hut showing that they were not economically sound. Goddess Laxmi stepped into the house walking on the beautiful Jhotis along the mud floor early in the morning. She saw a woman worshiping her idol decorating everywhere with flowers; the small house was very lovely with the scents of flowers, incense stick, lamps, sandalwood etc... Goddess Laxmi was so impressed with the tidiness, sense of beauty and devotion of the woman that she appeared before her and blessed her with abundant wealth even knowing that she was a sweeper (untouchable as per earlier Hindu culture) woman. [This story carry the message that being socially degraded does not mean that fortune and wealth won't favor... it supports those, who are systematic in their life, who are industrious, those who are positive in their thought and those who create happiness and harmony starting from their own home.]

When Goddess Laxmi returned to her abode Srimandira, knowing that she had been to a sweeper's home... elder brother Balabhadra got a chance to take the revenge of his earlier insult by Goddess Laxmi. Balabhadra ordered Lord jagannath not to make Laxmi enter into Srimandira. Lord Jagannath also obeyed his elder brother's word and denied Laxmi to enter into the temple since she was made fallen by entering into a lower caste woman's house and by accepting her puja . Laxmi being very much hurt went to his father's abode. His father "the Sea" build a beautiful palace for her near to his shores. In the absence of Laxmi, Srimandira became lifeless.... all the wealth and prosperity vanished suddenly and the two brothers became lusterless and they became road side beggars who began to beg for some food. Knowing their status of Brahmin people were giving them food to eat but mis-fortune always was there with them to steal their food some way or other. They became desperate until they found Laxmi's palace in the shores of bay of Bengal. They stood there with the hope of some food. Laxmi, knowing the fact that her husband and brother-in-law would arrive at her home, she did make all the arrangements well in advance. She send message with a maid that "would the Brahmins like to take food from a fallen low caste sweeper woman". The hunger stricken Gods agreed with the proposal that they would take food prepared by a sweeper woman. Goddess Laxmi served several delicious food prepared by herself which the two brothers at last could eat. Immediately Lord Jagannath could know that the house lady was non other than Laxmi. They begged apologies from Laxmi and together went to Srimandira merrily. 

[The story gives message to the society that women should be respected, given proper attention and care...... A house becomes home only due to a woman...It's the reason why women are considered as Laxmi of a home who always are there to service for the wellbeing and fortune of others. When woman is disrespected all the glory and happiness vanishes from the house.] 

[Another message is also there that no one is fallen or untouchable on earth.. every one has the right to become wealthier and fortunate by their approach towards life. Degrading social status of others is made by few influential human for their self-interest. All are equal on this earth as creator has made so.] 

Now I would present several Jhoti or chita patterns drawn by me which are drawn on the occasion of Margashira Maasha Gurubaara when women worship mother Laxmi and the new grains of rice in few little pots called Maana. In earlier times Maana was used to measure the mass of rice.      

Laxmi Paada Chitaa

This jhoti is called as Laxmipaada Chita or the "foot of Laxmi" as tiny foots of Laxmi are drawn inside the body of the Jhoti.    

Pidhaa marei

Pidhaa means a small piece of wood used for sitting purpose. Mahalaxmi would be seated on a Pidhaa which would be again decorated with Jhoti, muruja and flowers. The above Jhoti is an example of Pidhaa marei.

Maa Mahalaxmi is being seated on Pidhaa marei.

Swapna Padma Chitaa-1

Swapna Padma Chitaa-2

The above type of Chitaa is usually very big in size and requires a lot of time, concentration and labour. This Chitaa is believed to be liked by Goddess Laxmi. Why should it be liked by Goddess Laxmi, the question may come to mind. Goddess Laxmi must like creativity and beauty done with utmost care and interest. That could be the reason why Maa could like Swapna Padma. By the way my Swapna Padma might not have liked by Maa Laxmi as I although have put time and labour in it, could not produce the finest work... It requires a lot of practice...after all its an art.

Pidhaa Padma Chitaa



  1. These are so beautiful! Thank you for the post!

  2. awesome designs, with nice write-up....i liked door drawing from Raghrajpur village. Can you post the full picture till end of the door. I feel that entire house would be treasure of arts. thanks a lot for posting these.

  3. Theses are absolutely sensational. Ravishing! Thank you so much for posting them.

  4. Great post! Lovely pictures and great explaining of the Lakshmi story. I just learning about this tradition. I'm an artist myself and I make temporary carpets of rice. I just wrote a little bit about Jhoti on my blog (, reading your blog provides more information and details I didn't know yet, thank you!

  5. Very impressive display! Are they all your work? I appreciate the geometric intricacies of each design and wonder if they are copied patterns from historical samples or you develop them as you go along?

  6. b'ful handiwork...thank u for sharing...

  7. do u hav any pix of "maana osa" ? i hav never seen one... can u please show me one ?

  8. Thanks. A very interesting & educative work with lots of effort and research. Would like to be associated with you for my book on Fading festivals of Odisha. Jyotish Mahanti.

  9. Very beautiful. Myself an odis with not so artistic hand. All the jhoties are swesome.

  10. very beautifullllllllllllllllllll

  11. Its really designs....

  12. Col JC Mahanti (Retd)August 20, 2014 at 3:26 AM

    As I mentioned, I am including a chapter about this fading art in my book Fading Festivals of Odisha.

  13. Very beautiful and amazing Rangolis. Thanks for sharing.

    You have a nice blog which is a treasure house with information about many art forms.

    Wish you a Happy Diwali to you.

    Please look into my Lamps of India and Rangoli designs posts which i shared in my Heritage of India blog and share your comments.

  14. its really awesum thanks 4 helping us thanks a lot

  15. Awesome designs. You have terrific sense of chita. Totally blown over :)

  16. Great blog created by you.Thanks a lot for sharing
    Omani painter


  18. God bless you for sharing our culture & tradition which we hardly see these days.