Each day before the sun rises, millions of women in south India say silent prayers as they sprinkle their hearths with rice flour to make kolams to invite the divine to grace their homes. The kolam -an ancient Dravidian geometrical motif – combines form, movement and colour to announce each new day. In Tamil, the word kolam implies beauty, form and play; it is a quiet ritual full of grace to make the home a sacred space.
Women have drawn kolams before the entrances to their homes for centuries. Kolams may be linked to the earth, the stars or special festivities, but they are first and foremost a conscious offering to Mother Earth. They are prayers for prosperity, joy, wisdom, good health, and friendship. Their pretty patterns make villages and towns more festive, joyful, and devotional. Traditional kolam as a daily ritual Just before daylight, a woman prepares the ground before the entrance of her house. After the day’s initial tasks are done, she sweeps the front porch area with a broomstick made of coconut fronds. The sound of her broomstick striking the earth resonates with those of other women who are also sweeping their thresholds. Soon there is an orchestra of brooms signaling to those still in bed that morning is coming and that it is nearly time to rise.
After sweeping, she prepares her earth canvas by first coating the ground with a mixture of water and cow dung, which has been chosen for its purification value. Then, with deft and nimble fingers, she first lays out a regular pattern of dots with rice flour. By letting the powder run smoothly between thumb and forefingers as if she were pouring dry water, she composes a continuous line, which turns and twists around the initial dots. Some women can draw up to four lines at once, as the powder slips through poised fingers. Sometimes a woman knows a pattern by heart, and sometimes she will create a pattern that is entirely new and unique. Each type of design has a name and a symbolic meaning. On festival days, kolams are particularly large and magnificent.
Kolam, its significance:
Crossing a threshold, or vayipadi in Tamil, is a conscious event. Kolams link the private realm to communal life, hospitality to guests and passersby, the personal and familial to the divine. In this way, more than a transient art, they are a conscious science. They are a subtle bridge between the intimate home and the vast and challenging world beyond. In ancient times, wandering sadhus would enter a village with kolams gracing the thresholds of village homes and know something of the lives of the inhabitants of each house. Abundance, hardship, aspirations were written on the earth with a few lines and dots or the absence of them.
The children will be guided to understand the symbolic nature of kolams and will be allowed to express themselves in freedom. In the process the teachers will facilitate use of arms, hands and fingertips. Proper use of body and posture to draw kolam will also be taught.
Explain the meaning and significance to the children, fingers and hands will be sensitized to use the dry coarse rice flour, children will be guided to take a pinch of flour for making kolam, they will learn to make dots and they will learn to join the dots and make patterns.