Kolams

Kolams are pretty drawings done on the ground in front of the house, typically by Hindus in south India. 141 It is traditionally done with rice flour.

Kolams have a long history, with some suggesting that the theme could be as old as 5000 years. The purpose of kolams ranges from the practical (a nice art in front of your house) to philosophical (providing ants and birds with food). Kolams are also an entreaty to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and fortune.

Some of the kolams can be mind-blowingly beautiful. 142

Fig 46: Some attractive kolams

As far as I know, only women do kolams. I think that’s just the way it has been throughout history.

For amma, tradition came first, and history a distant second. A house without a kolam was an affront to her cherished traditions!

But it was difficult for her at her age to do the kolam on her own. Before the COVID lockdown, our maid did it, but with no maid-aid during the lockdown, it became my duty everyday to do the kolam everyday.

In my entire life thus far, my best efforts at art even with an easy-to-use color pencil or crayon have been real eyesores. For over 50 days, I did kolams, with the smooth rice flour slipping through my fingers and landing in spots I hardly intended. And with amma watching me do these, and ready to pounce on me if there was any dereliction of duty midway.

I had often wondered what made art aficionados pay millions to purchase abstract paintings, many of which looked like utter nonsense to me. When I looked at some of my kolams, I started wondering if I should start pursuing a different and very lucrative profession

Nonsense seems to come to me naturally.

Fig. 47: My kolam: The kolam I tried out in front of my house on April 14th 2020, the New Year’s day for Tamilians as well as for many other ethnicities worldwide. What I intended was a series of infinities, and what I got was this.

Down memory lane <= Kolams => I was her child again

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Notes

141. Variants of kolam exist in many parts of India, with their own names and characteristics

142. All you need to do is to search for “beautiful kolams” in Google images, and you will have in front of you some remarkably beautiful art.

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