28 October 2011


Now that we are in the midst of a celebratory season which started with the victory of Navaratri and will continue through to Karthigai Deepam in December, thought it an appropriate time to make a posting about the Kolam.

A Kolam is a design, made afresh daily, which decorates the fronts of homes in South India. This art form which is described in many ancient Sanskrit texts, is a symbol of auspiciousness. It is believed that geometric patterns and designs applied with rice flour at the entrance to a home, invites Goddess Lakshmi into the household, and drives away evil spirits. In this respect, folklore has evolved to mandate that the lines of a design must be completed so as to symbolically prevent evil spirits from entering the shapes, and thus be prevented from entering the inside of the home!

Every morning before sunrise, the floor outside a home is cleaned with water and a Kolam drawn while the surface is still damp. Occasionally, cow-dung is used on the floor as cow-dung is believed to be auspicious and also thought to have antiseptic properties, thus providing protection for the home. Kolams are also applied daily in the pooja room generally near lamps, with specific Kolams attributed to various deities.

On festive occasions, Kolam designs are more elaborate and complicated. Although Kolam (termed Rangoli in north India) is practised in most parts of India, the geometric patterns that constitute the Kolam and manner of constructing them vary from region to region.

“Crossing a threshold is a conscious event. Kolams link the private realm to communal life, hospitality to guests and passersby, the personal and familial to the divine. In this way, more than a transient art, they are a conscious science. They are a subtle bridge between the intimate home and the vast and challenging world beyond. In ancient times, wandering sadhus would enter a village with Kolams gracing the thresholds of village homes and know something of the lives of the inhabitants of each house. Abundance, hardship, aspirations were written on the earth with a few lines and dots or the absence of them.”
[Book on Kolams]

Recommended Kolam Links:

A narrative about India Floor Decoration, which explores the scriptural history of Rangoli and includes fascinating information about Kolam.

Interesting site documenting the history and evolution of Kolams in South India. In particular observations regarding women's ability to learn, memorize and easily reproduce Kolam patterns everyday.

A website exploring the fractal dimensions of Kolam design.

An elegant website with information about Kolams. Including excellent gallery of Kolam designs and interactive tutorials of how to draw Kolams.

Fascinating website with tutorials of Kolams and Rangoli and many photographs of designs.

1 comment:

Shelly said...

Very interesting information and fantastic links. I have been enjoying learning about Kolams from interactive tutorials. Lots of fun.