Kolam: Bringing Art to Every Indian Doorstep

Kolam, the South Indian counterpart of Rangoli is similar as well as dissimilar in several ways. It is strikingly beautiful and generally a blend of myriad hues. Traditionally done using edible rice powder in order to feed ants, crows and other birds, it is also drawn using synthetic powders such as chalk and artificially coloured powders. Many communities organize Best Kolam competitions, in which hundreds of artist participate and the best ones are felicitated.

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Kolam is drawn on the floor by taking help of a fine grid of equidistant dots carefully placed. Powder is then sprinkled around the dots in different patters which give rise to a network of motifs, which are either filled with colours or left empty. The lines drawn around the dots are purposefully closed and not left open so as to evade the entry of evil powers into the kolam as well as the house. These carpets of powdered rice are a common spectacle on the doorway of almost every South Indian house. It is associated with bringing prosperity and happiness to the home and is also a way of welcoming guests. This carpet is drawn each day in the morning and is wiped off by the day’s end as people pass by or due to wind or water.

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The Kolams are decorated with diyas during festivals such as onam, pongal, weddings etc. The rice kolams are drawn specifically for the ants, so that they needn’t wander away from their homes in search of food, rather they may find a source somewhere near their holes. Gods and goddesses’ figures are also drawn by many while many make use of modern- abstract or geometric art.

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Indians have a passion to decorate almost everything in their own special way. Kolam or Rangoli is one such effort of decorating the entrance of homes and temples, and at the same time opening the doors to many kinds of blessings from the Supreme Power.

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