Vibrant colours, intricate patterns and attractive designs of rangoli adorn the threshold of many households during the festive season in various parts of our country. But do you know the significance of a Kolam?
The ritual of making rangolis is very common across the country. This form of art dates several hundred years back. In some parts of our country, it is made in an ornate style whereas in some places in a prosaic style; the purpose of making the rangolis are also different in various places of our country. They are known by different names in different regions: Aipan in Kumaon, Mandana in Rajasthan, Alpana in Bengal, Aripana in Bihar and so on.
My Journey With Kolam
As a teenager rangolis fascinated me. In my neighbourhood, there was a sixty-year-old lady, who aced the art of making rangoli. I used to feel delighted to see them. She was so adept at making it that I was often awed by her talent. I tried to have a peek at it again and again when nobody was around. Feeling appreciated, aunty taught me how to make rangolis; I tried my hands at it and over a period of time learnt to make a decent one. During my visit to my parent’s house also in Bangalore, I had noticed how the maids made rangolis with so much proficiency in just a few minutes. Impressed by their skills, I tried to learn from them, too and I dabble in making rangolis, apart from having other hobbies.
Kolam is a kind of decorative design that is formed by using dots only where they are joined by lines, loops and other gestures. Kolam rangoli is not so flashy but is known for precision, symmetry and complexity. Kolam style of rangoli has originated from Tamil Nadu gradually spreading to different regions of southern India likes Karnataka, Kerela and Andhra Pradesh. It is conventionally made of rice flour but, at times, chalk powder, chalk or synthetic colour powder are also used. As the Tamilian diaspora is very wide, it is practised abroad also. It enmeshes a variety of patterns which include geometrical lines, curvy lines and loops as well.
The Stories Around It
They are made in front of the house entrance to chase away the Goddess Laxmi sister, Mudde Ve, which brings ill fate, misfortune and laziness to the house and that is why it is a ritual to make Kolam every day at the threshold of the house. During the festival, a more intricate design with bright colours filled into it is made which deck up the entrance of the house. Kolam is the harbinger of happiness and prosperity and not only welcomes goddess Laxmi but also is a sign of harmonious co-existence of different forms of life. Women excitedly look forward to the month of Margazi when they make sprawling rangolis on roads without lifting their hands. In Kolam, abstract designs are blended with religious and philosophical motifs which depict different animal images.
The origin of Kolam is quite ambiguous. The earliest textual reference to the word Kolam is made in the 13th-century inscription in Tirunelveli. However, there are myths and legends associated with the origin of rangoli in the treatise on Indian painting called Chitra Lakshana. So, the story is that there was a kingdom ruled by a king. The king and the priest of the kingdom were very popular and admired by the people of the kingdom. One day the priest’s son passed away, and therefore the sorrow spilt over the entire kingdom. Prayers were offered to the Lord Brahma. He was moved by them and told to people to paint a portrait of the boy on the floor so that he could breathe life into him. That was how the boy got alive and the ritual of making rangolis was established.
Why The Tradition Of Kolam Must Be Continued
Like any other traditional art form, Kolam is also gradually dying out, however, these art forms should be saved from getting extinct. Kolam is the emblem of our rich and glorious cultural history.
Women of the house are supposed to draw Kolam on the threshold of the house before the dawn and the dusk. During the festive season, it keeps them on their toes. Making Kolam is considered as a plus point for a woman of marriageable age apart from knowing culinary skills. Women make rangoli either on the threshold or inside the house but they are prohibited to draw it inside the temple. It is considered to be solely a man’s work. This practice confines women at home and is in their private space, putting them one step behind men.
To sum it up, it is the most iconic, admired and amalgamation of intricate forms of lines, motifs and so on which blend together and give shape to various patterns and designs. There is no need to judge a Kolam by its gender.
The views expressed are the author’s own.