Diary of Hobbitt

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kolam - Creative art of Custom & Tradition

Indian tradition is rich with certain customs which often bring a dash of colour to our daily life. One such custom is the practice of drawing designs at the entrance of the house .it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi will bless the house with her divine presence.
The practice of drawing designs is prevalent in most parts of India,and is referred to by different names in different parts of the country. In Tamil Nadu it is called kolam, in Bengal it goes by the name of "alpana", in Maharashtra and other parts of north India it is known as rangoli.
In Tamil Nadu two types of kolam are practised.The first one being podi (powder)kolam and the second one being makolamn (wet flour kolam). Podi kolam is is drawn in front of the house every morning while makolam is drawn on festival days and during celebrations such as weddings, engagement, etc.
In the olden days when life was not hectic and complex as it is today , the practice of drawing kolam was considered not only a customary practice but also an activity which brought forth one 's creative skills. Young girls would compete with one another to draw the best kolam in front of their houses . It is said that they would go from door to door at times to copy whichever designs pleased them, in their notebooks so that they could reproduce it in front of their house some other day.
In the villages, the lady of the house would wake up well before sunrise and clean the front of the house with cow-dung (yucky as it sounds, cow dung is supposed to keep away insects and germs)and allow it to dry for a few minutes and draw kolam - a simple one or a an intricate one depending on her creative skill. The powder used for kolam would be rice powder-according to ancient scritptures the theory behind this was that not only would it welcome Goddess Lakshmi into the house, but it would also provide food for ants .Today however special kolam powder is available in the market ,which is not rice powder.The practice of using kolam powder is on the rise not only in the cities but also in the villages these days. Life having become very hectic in the urbam area with more and more women opting for careers, the practice of drawing kolam is on the decline ! This in turn has given rise to a new concept-sticker kolams! Sticker kolams are available in the market in different designs and sizes.All one has to do is, to peel the paper layer and stick the kolam wherever one wants. The kolam sticks firmly and stays there for long!No more drawing kolam everyday-sticker kolams have come as a boon to many harrassed housewives and career women alike,who,while wanting to stick to tradition , feel rushed for time and are not able to engage in in this activity on a daily basis. Necessity truly is the mother of invention !
The second type of kolam is makolam. Mavu in tamil means flour . Mavu kolam in day to day life has come to be referred as makolam. Rice is soaked for an hour and ground to fine slightly watery consistency. The art of drawing kolam with this wet flour requires using a small bundle of cloth soaked into it and drawing with two fingers - difficult as it sounds practice makes it perfect and it is not very difficult. Makolam being normally drawn on festive occasions, the designs that are drawn also are very different from the normal podi kolam designs. An added feature of makolam is the red bordern that is drawn around the outline of the kolam so that it looks very bright and beautiful.
A special season meant especially for drawing large and elaborate podikolam designs falls somewhere from the middle of December to middle of January. Creative skills at their best can be witnessed if one were to walk along the streets early in the morning during this season (known as Margazhi Masam). The designs displayed are very elaborate , intricate and very different from the ones that are usually seen. During this season a small flowerholder (made of cowdung) holding a bright yellow pumpkin flower is kept on the kolam.
If only people would take time off to ponder over such traditional customs and maintain it to some extent and not lose themselves in the race to keep up with todays jet age,life would still have its charm despite modernization.


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