Young World

Design at your doorstep

Intricate patterns: Adding a festive air. Photo: Vipin Chandran

Intricate patterns: Adding a festive air. Photo: Vipin Chandran  

Check out the white lacy drawings outside most homes in South India. Drawn with rice flour, it is not only beautiful but also feeds ants and small insects.

Have you wondered about the white lacy patterns at the entrance of houses and outside temples in some parts of India? They are known as Kolams in South India, and Alpana in West Bengal.

Women of the house cleaned and washed their front yards at dawn before their husbands step out for work. They then took rice flour and used their thumb and forefinger to trace dots on the ground and draw thin lines along the dots in a pattern.

Dotted delight

Initially, the rice flour was used to attract ants and other insects that would eat it and go away satisfied without entering the house. This practice hasn’t died out, and even in apartments, you see women drawing kolams. These days, other powders are used to cut down costs.

There are special kolams for each occasion. Those with dots are called pulli kolams. During the month of Margazhi, it is a joy to see these beautiful white kolams gracing most front yards. The kolams are drawn before sunrise, lamps are lit and prayers are offered. During Pongal, the harvest celebration, special intricate kolams are drawn in rural areas to venerate the sun god. Sometimes they are drawn to connect the houses to establish friendship.

Have you heard of thanni kolams? They are drawn for display over water, and you will need expertise to do this. Onam sees some beautiful poo kolams where whole designs are done with petals and coloured powder. The rangoli of the north favours coloured powders.

In the old days, certain tasks were prescribed as they meant physical exercise. Today we get ready–made sticker kolams against a red background which you stick on the floor. They look pretty, but are not a patch on those that are hand–drawn.

Take some kolamavu and try your hand at drawing a kolam.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 4:51:50 PM |

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