To draw a mandana, no brush is needed but a piece of sari turned into a ball. It works as an ink-tank when dipped in the chosen colour and pressed into the palm of the hand. The young woman directs the red liquid and traces the outlines of the drawing. Similarly, she arranges within spaces, straight and curved parallel lines, recurring figures or mirror designs with the white colour. The act of drawing mandana is described as subhkarya (literally meaning an auspicious endeavor) and puts forward the idea of center, symmetry and multiplication. Around a circle revering the syllable OM drawn in its centre, I notice at each cardinal point, identical figures; depictions of Lakshmi.

Heartened by my keen interest in these graphical works, the sister-in-law draws a square to host a pair of stylized feet crown by the sun and the moon. On each side of the square, I wonder what the rising arrowheads pattern stand for. However, they make me think of Tuareg crosses worn by men and passed down from father to son with the following precept: “My son, I give you the four cardinal directions as nobody knows where you will die”. Is it the desert nearby that gives all the mandana this resolutely geometrical and uncluttered aspect?

The morning is spent on drawing and with this in mind, the mother and other girls are driven by a joint spirit of enthusiasm in scalloping the courtyard edges as they would festoon a drapery border.