Sacred Time: Temporal Rhythms in Aipan Practice: Gudrun Frommherz
In the cultural consciousness of the Kumaoni people of North India’s Himalayan foothill regions, folkloristic-religious Aipan paintings (Figure 6.1a) are considered a ceremonial art form honoring the performances of Sanskars,1 Hindu rites of passage. Whereas there are several related art forms practiced throughout India, the Aipan art of the Kumaoni people is unique in variety, aesthetic sophistication and symbolic signifi cance. The intricate patterns of Aipan that are created by the Kumaoni women during times of festive preparation are predominantly understood to serve as artful decorations for a religious purpose. Notwithstanding an explicit decorative function, the aesthetic forms of Aipan are also regarded as spiritual expressions (Shah, 2006) in their own right. Aipan art forms are considered symbols of spiritual purity and are believed by its practitioners to bring protection and prosperity to people and places where they are applied. It is precisely this dual function as decorative means to ritual performances on the one hand, and as tantric symbols2 on the other, that leaves Aipan art both utilitarian in purpose and spiritual in effect. This twin perspective endows the processes of Aipan with a special status as practices somewhere between everyday profanity and sophisticated ritual engagement. In the same way that Aipan art integrates both ordinary and ritual means, Aipan artists, during the processes of creating the art, appear to seamlessly move their engagement between everyday actions and stylized rituals.