The Fascinating Art of Kolam

Uma ShankariStarred Page By Uma Shankari, 20th Nov 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Art>Forms & Genres

Kolam is a traditional art of drawing that is practiced by the women of South India.

What is Kolam?

Kolam or rangoli is a form of traditional Indian folk art used widely in Tamil Nadu , Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as decorative art work in front of dwellings.

Every morning in Tamil Nadu, India, millions of women draw kolams on the ground with white rice powder. Through the day, the drawings get walked on, rained out, or blown around in the wind; new ones are made the next day. Every morning before sunrise, the ground in front of the door is cleaned with water and the muddy floor is swept well for an even surface. The kolams are generally drawn while the surface is still damp so that it is held better. Occasionally, cow-dung is also used to wax the floors. In some cultures, cow dung is believed to have antiseptic properties and hence provides a literal threshold of protection for the home. It also provides contrast with the white powder.

Why Are Kolams Drawn?

Decoration was not the sole purpose of a Kolam. In olden days, kolams used to be drawn in coarse rice flour, so that the ants could feed on them. The rice powder invites birds and other small critters to eat it, thus defining and paving a path for harmonious co-existence with all living beings. Unfortunately, these days, chalk powder or white rock powder is used, and you don't find ants feeding them.

Kolams are thought to bestow prosperity to homes. Kolam is a sign of invitation to welcome all into the home, not the least of whom is Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity. The patterns range between geometric and mathematical line drawings around a matrix of dots to free form art work and closed shapes. It is believed that the kolams prevent evil spirits from entering the inside of the shapes, and thus into the interiors of the house.

How are Kolams Drawn?

There are different types of kolam patterns in which dots or pullis, and lines or curves are used. The dots are marked on the floor first and then joined either by straight lines, or smooth curves.

Brain Stimulation Exercise?

Kolams are all about spatial symmetry. Please go through the following video and try to draw this simple, yet challenging, kolam. Unless you pay attention to the symmetry, you will find it difficult to draw. Imagine you drawing this early in the morning, with head bent down in the process, making the blood course through the brain. What a brain stimulation!

Researchers have been fascinated by how even uneducated women remember and draw complicated kolam patterns. They have studied the designs to formulate the syntactical rules that would enable a computer to generate all possible kinds of designs. whether they make use of any syntactic rules that underlie kolam designs. Hridaya Kamalam is a specific instance of a kolam which has eight converging arms or axes and each arm is of 'length' five units. Mark the five pullis on the eight converging arms in radial form.

Here is a video that that teaches you how to draw this:

The following is a kolam for prosperity, or aishwarya


Dot Kolam, Indian Culture, Kolam Art, Rangoli, South India

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author avatar Uma Shankari
I write on society, relationships, travel, health, nutrition and fitness.
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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
20th Nov 2013 (#)

Fascinating explanation of this unusual art form.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
21st Nov 2013 (#)

I too find this fascinating...thank you Uma

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author avatar C.D. Moore
21st Nov 2013 (#)

Yes, I enjoyed reading this.

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author avatar vellur
24th Nov 2013 (#)

Kolams are beautiful and a welcome sight.

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