Aipan is a traditional decorative wall or floor art form of Kumaon. This art form has a great degree of social, cultural and religious significance associated with it. It is taught to the daughters and the daughters-in-law of the family, hence passing the tradition from generation to generation.
Aipan is drawn on the walls and floor where religious ceremonies are to be performed. Traditionally, every morning, aipan is freshly made on the threshold. Some aipan patterns are drawn to appease a particular God or Goddess.
For the Kumaonis, each deity in the Hindu pantheon has a special symbol and every occasion is celebrated with an aipan of a different kind. The raw materials used for this craft are, geru (red clay), rice paste, abheer gulal, turmeric, dhatura flowers, burnt coconut shell.
These raw materials are easily available at the local stores in the area. The artist, which is mainly the woman of the family, draws the pattern freehand, from memory.
The central part, which is considered to be ceremonial and has a prescribed motif, is drawn in rice paste using the ring finger, anamika. The outer part, which is decorative is then drawn, adjusted to fit an important element without which the aipan is considered unfinished.
The aipan drawn on the floor of the prayer room and on the deity’s seat or chowki is defined by Tantric motifs, called peeth or yantra. The lines and dots in an aipan have metaphorical meanings, for instance, an aipan for a dead person is drawn without dots on the 12th day. After three days it is rubbed out with mud and a new one with dots is made. Thresholds are decorated with good luck patterns, which are many times just vertical white lines.