Meet 69 years old kolam artist, Mrs Godavari Krishnamurthy whose passion is drawing kolams for 60 years. In a candid interview with our outreach editor, Kaveri Purandhar, Mrs Godavari shares her amazing journey of drawing kolams.

When did you realise that drawing kolams is your creativity?

I was bought up in a small town called Mayuram in Tanjore District of Tamil Nadu, and in southern India, kolam making is one of the oldest tradition.

I started drawing kolams when I was 9 yrs old, I learnt kolam from my mother. I would draw in the verandah of our home. Initially, I drew kolams as a hobby but my family, friends and onlookers started admiring and praising my kolams. With time, I perfected my kolam making. I think that was the time I realised that kolam drawing is my forte.

Can you please tell us more about kolam making and its significance?

Kolam means “beauty” and is drawn on the floor by using rice flour, rock powder, chalk or chalk powder. But traditionally rice flour or rock powder is considered. In Northern India, it’s called “Rangoli” as powder of different colours are used which altogether makes it more beautiful. In ancient days, a single coloured stone called “Kaavi” was used just to give an outline to the kolam and to enhance its beauty.

In southern India, before the sun rise women draw kolam in front their home as it’s one of the ways to welcome goddess Lakshmi into their homes.

The Marghazi month or Danur month which is marked from December till January, in Tamil Nadu, is of immense spiritual importance. Drawing of kolams is also the highlight of that month. I would draw kolam (as big as a road’s width) every day, for the entire one month, with a social message written on the top of the kolam. All this gives me immense satisfaction and happiness.

Godavari Krishnamurthy
Godavari Krishnamurthy

What are the basics forms of kolam?

I would say dots, lines and curves are the basic fundamentals for any form of kolam, which are; Pulli kolam and Padi kolam. The former is based on the grid of dots that can be extended further with our own imaginary designs using loops, curves or straight lines.

Padi kolam is square based and drawn at holy places or wherever any auspicious event is performed and also during festivals. So one can use their creative imaginations and make a combination as well.

Kolam is also called as a “Math Art”, how does one relate kolam to mathematics?

If you see any kolam carefully, it has a specific geometry. The shape of the Kolam represents a geometrical shape like a square, circle, hexagon etc. As I said earlier that dots are the base of any kolam, these dots are further joined with the help of loops, curves and lines giving it a definite geometry and pattern. For example, Padi kolam which I have mentioned above is a square based drawing. Hence Kolam is associated with mathematical properties.

Creativity is all about putting your heart and soul into something, your comments on that?

Yes, rightly said. I have been drawing kolams for the past 60 years now it has become a part of my life. Even now I draw my own extended designs on a paper first and then implement it practically later. It gives me “my time” and while drawing kolams I simply forget two things; Time and the people around me (laughs).

Any memorable moment of yours in this amazing journey of kolam drawing?

I was in California (US) when I had drawn kolams for an event there. Many curious onlookers, especially kids came to me and were asking questions about this Indian art which I was more than happy to answer. It was proud as well as a memorable moment for me as I had taken our Indian culture to the western world.

Please tell us what is Kolam making for you and what message you would like to give to the younger generation today?

For me, it’s a form of exercise as one has to bend for a good time and draw. It’s done with a lot of focus, hence sharpens the mind and also enhances your imagination. Basically, kolam making is my all time favourite thing to do.

For the generation next, I would like to say that if they want to take this art forward, follow the traditional way and not use oil paints and stickers to have a permanent design. But then it’s an individual’s
choice I guess (sighs). For 36 long years, I was a government employee during which I never stopped making kolams. So one has to be sincere in whatever they do.

Mrs Godavari is an inspiration to all those people who wants to pursue what they like, as they say, “Age is just a number”.

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