About the Kolam



Kolam meaning “guise” are striking and often intricate rice-flour designs (also called rangolis) that are drawn outside each household every morning at sunrise and again at sunset by the village women.   Kolam’s are both auspicious and symbolic.  Historically it is the belief that the rice-flour which may be eaten by birds and insects symbolize reverence for all life. And, that Deities are deemed to be attracted to a beautiful Kolam and it is considered a signal to Sadhus that they can expect food at a particular house.  Some also believe that Kolam’s protect against the evil eye.  On festival days the designs are especially complex, large and colorful because the women use colored rice-flour.  Rice to the Indian is like corn to the Native Americans, a symbol of abundance and prosperity.  It is worshipped as Lakshimi herself, the Goddess of wealth and abundance.

Kolam is the art of creating rice flour or chalk decorations (mandalas) on a sidewalk, doorstep or wall. Some designs are simple, white, geometric patterns, covering little space, while others are large, elaborate works of art, incorporating many colors and portraying devotional themes. During holidays and festivals, especially Pongal (held in January), the Kolam designs become gloriously inspired, sometimes taking an entire day to complete.

Every morning at sunrise and again at sunset a new Kolam is created in a ceremonial gesture of beauty, gratitude and sacrifice.  The daily practice of clearing and washing the entrance of each home or sidewalk and creating a beautiful Kolam for all to see is a like a form of Sadhana (spiritual practice).  This practice of Sadhana and ritual of creating the Kolam has been past on from Mother to daughter for thousands of years. 

Experiencing the sight of a beautiful Kolam on a daily basis has a profound affect on one’s heart.   The creation and sharing the beauty of the Kolam outside each threshold is like asking the Goddess Lakshimi to bestow her blessings on all who pass by thus elevating the minds and hearts of humanity.  Lakshimi is the Goddess of auspiciousness, abundance and she manifests beauty.  Everything in our visual reality is considered a manifestation of her.

Historically the designs and patterns were created using rice-flour.  Nowadays women are using a commercially sold stone powder.  The women hold a handful of flour/powder in their right hand and will uniformly drop the flour/powder to make a line through her thumb and pointer (index) finger.  In a continuous motion she will move her hand around to make curves or dots.  Though the particulars of each tradition vary slightly the emphasis on transcendent beautification remains the same.  Creating the precise yet graceful geometric patterns of the Kolam focuses the mind and brings creativity and meaning into their life.  It is considered a daily meditative yoga for the women that go outside their home and create these beautiful Kolams for all to see.