Written by: Gayathiri Sivakumar
Kolams, decorative designs drawn with rice flour traditionally by women in front of their homes serve to be more than being aesthetically pleasing. Kolams have great cultural and medical significance.
Air Circulation and Cleansing – In some Tamil regions, prior to designing a Kolam, the area in front of the house is washed with water mixed with cow dung. Cow dung helps in killing insects and helps in air circulation.
Exercise – Women are typically the ones who have traditionally been the designers of Kolams. Women were also more likely than men to suffer back-pain due to household chores. Therefore, Kolam design forces a women to bend and balance, and served as a form of exercise to strengthen her backbone for the day’s work. This form is called the ‘Yogasana’, and is thought to be very strengthening to women.
Inviting the Gods - Kolams are thought to be inviting to the Gods, and drawing a particular Kolam is thought of as a welcoming to a particular God. Also, the intention and mood of the designer is important in welcoming the Gods, so it calls for a pure heart and happiness early in the morning.
Living Creature – The rice flour used in Kolam design serves as food for insects and birds. Drawing the Kolam at one’s house entrance is thought to be a symbol and action of a human’s concern for all living organisms. It was a representation of harmonious co-existence.
Meditation – Kolam was also thought of as a form of meditation and comfort for women. The “Sikkal Kolam”, a specialized Kolam was practiced as a way of providing women with assurance that they would be able to solve any problem that came in their lives. It was believed that the practicing of drawing the “Sikkal Kolam” provided women with the capability of better problem solving and clarity early in the morning by forcing them with creativity and outward thinking.
Teamwork – Kolam is an activity that was practiced by entire communities, and thus designs were shared among the women. This was thought to help provide unity, comfort and friendship for women.
Warding Away Evil – Our ancestors have thought of many ways to ward off veil, and it is believed that enclosing a Kolam is red helps ward off evil from entering the house. Some of the geometric connections in the Kolam itself are thought to ward off evil.
Kolams have now also been analyzed as a form of expressing pictures and math, to check out more, check out this recommended read!
The Kolam Tradition: A tradition of figure-drawing in southern India expresses mathematical ideas and has attracted the attention of computer science. (2002) Access here: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/27857597
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