Thursday, 17 March 2016


A Kolam is a geometrical line drawing compossed of curved loops, drawn around a grid pattern of dots.  Rangoli also known as kolam or muggulu, is a folk art from India in which patterns are created on the floor using materials like rice floor, chawlk powder, white rock powder or kolam powder usually with naturally/synthetically coloured powder.  More complex kolams are drawn and colours are often added during festive occasions and special events.  The purpose of kolam or rangoli is decoration and the design depictions may also vary as they reflect traditions, folklore and practices that are unique to each area.
Rangoli designs can be simple geometric shapes, deity impressions, or flower and petal shapes, but they can also be very elaborate designs crafted by numerous people.  The base material is usually dry or wet powdered rice or dry flour, to which sindoor(vermillion), haldi(turmeric) and other natural colours can be added.  Chemical colors are a modern variation.  Other materials include coloured sand, red brick powder and even flowers and petals, as in case of Pookalam of kerala. 
Kolams are thought to bring prosperity to homes. Every morning before sunrise, the floor of the house is cleaned with water and swept well to create an even surface.  In some villages of Tamil Nadu, cow dung is mixed with water and waxed on the floor which is believed to be a disinfectant and hence provides a lliteral threshold of protection for the home.  It also gives a bright look to the kolam.  Through the day, the drawings get walked on, washed out in the rain, or blown around in the wind, new ones are drawn the next day.  Kolams are generally drawn while the surface is still damp so the design will hold better.   
Decoration is not the only purpose of a kolam.  In olden days, kolams were drawn in coarse rice flour, so that the ants would not have a walk too faar or too long for a meal.  The rice powder also attracted birds and other small creatures to eat it, thus welcoming other beings into one’s home and everyday life.  It is a sign of invitation to welcome all into the home, along with Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity and wealth.  The kolam patterns range from geometric and mathematical line drawings around a matrix of dots to freehand art work and closed shapes.  Folklore has evolved to mandate that the lines must be completed so as to symbolically prevent evil spirit from entering the inside of the shapes, and thus are they prevented from entering the inside of the home. 
  In south india, it is mostly practiced by female Hindu family members in front of their houses.  They are meant to be welcoming areas for the Hindu deities keeping the art form and the tradition alive.  The same practice is followed through out India with different names: Kolam in Tamil Nadu, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh, Golam or Kalam in Kerala, Rangavalli in Karnataka, Raangolee in Maharashtra, Mandana in Rajasthan, Chowk pujan in Uttar Pradesh, Aripana in Bihar, Alpana in West Bengal,   Chaookpurna in Chhattisgarh and so on…
It used to be a matter of pride to be able to draw large complicated patterns without lifting the hand off the floor or sitting in between.  The month of Margazhi was eagerly awaited by young women, who would then showcase their skills by covering the entire width of the road with one big kolam.
In the kolam patterns, many designs are derived from motifs and abstract designs blended with philosophic and religious motifs which have been mingled together.  Motifs may include birds, fish, butterflies, and other animal images to symbolize the unity of man and beast.  Also used are designs for the sun, moon and other zodiac symbols.  The ritual kolam patterns created for special occasions such as weddings often stretch all the way down the street.  Many of these created patterns have been passed on generation to generation, from grandmothers to mothers and mothers to daughters.  Volunteering to draw the kolam at temple is sometimes done when a devotee’s wishes are fulfilled.

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