On festivals such as pongal, women draw kolams made of rice flour in the courtyards and around the house.
What is known as Kolam in Tamil and in Malayalam is known as rangoli in Kannada and mugga or muggulu in Telugu. In Tamil kolam means beauty. The design of the kolam is symbolic of the wandering soul. Like the lines in the kolam, it ends where it begins. It is popularly believed that by drawing a kolam one can invite Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth into one's house. A Puranic story highlights this. While the Devas and the Asuras were churning Parkatal (Ocean of Milk) for amirtam (nectar), many things started coming up. Goddess Lakshmi too came out of that ocean and requested Lord Vishnu for an abode. The Lord said that she could stay in houses where the entrances to houses are sprinkled with cow dung water and decorated with kolams. Next came Moodevi -the Goddess of misfortune. She too asked for a place to stay. The Lord directed that she could stay in dirty houses where they would not draw kolams. From then on, people began to draw kolams not only to invite Lakshmi into their houses, but also to keep Moodevi away from their houses. Kolams are usually drawn with rice flour which feed sparrows and ants. It is believed that they in turn pray for an eternal flow of rice into our kitchens so that they never go hungry. That might be the reason why Kuselan's wife who had 27 children never failed to draw kolams with rice flour even though she didn't have enough rice to cook food. Lord Krishna, a friend of Kuselan, rewarded her for her patience and faith. Once when Andal, was drawing kolams of the feet and the five weapons of Lord Vishnu (bow, sword, spear, gadha and wheel) in her house, a girl asked her, "Will the Lord appear if one draws kolams?" Andal replied, "Kolamittupartal Gopalan therivan" (if one looks deeply into the kolams drawn with reverence and faith, one can see the Lord). The reference to kolams in Andal's hymns only shows the existence of such an art around the 9th century A.D. itself.