Stunning Indian sand art on display at Belleville deli

Editors note: Roopa Raja owns a small convenience store, known to customers as Rajas Deli, at 750 Washington Ave., Belleville, and he shared with us the following.

The picture you are seeing above is a piece of Indian history that, I am proud to say, I am able to share with you all.

Known as Rangoli, this is an ancient art from thousands of years ago made with sand. No glue, no stencils to make it are used — just excitement for the New Year and love for those around me. Rangoli is made around the Hindu New Year, specifically for Diwali, the festival of lights. This art connects and brings family, friends and God together during this special time.

I used my hands and colored sand to make this beautiful piece.

It is a young village girl selling toys she made by hand the week prior. This is what she does for a living — bringing smiles and happiness to children around the village. However, she remains expressionless — such beauty spreading such happiness, yet she is emotionless. This is a call to how we as humans today are “going through the motions,” not taking a moment to “stop and smell the roses.”

I learned this art from my beloved mother, who learned it from her mother. Thus, the tradition is passed from generation to generation, and I have begun teaching my two sons, Karan and Yuvraj, my daughter-in-law, Dipti (Karan’s wife), and my granddaughter, Nandini, this otherwise disappearing art.

Every year for the past 29 years, I have made a Rangoli at the store, and my lovely, huge, entire family loves to see it, which mostly consists of my customers. I have been encouraged every year to make something new and hope I can continue this tradition for years to come.

The artwork is still at the store, so bring friends, family and loved ones — everyone is invited — to witness this spectacle.

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Roopa Raja