Each day has its ups and downs, strains and stress. But the mind and soul is always fresh and at peace in the wee hours of the morning. Tamils welcome the New Year in their own unique way. They welcome it fresh in the morning, even before the rays of the sun touch the earth.
The women folk come out of their homes in the wee hours of the morning to make designs at the entrance to their homes. These designs, commonly known as Kolam is drawn on the ground using rice flour. They use their skillful fingers and their inborn creativity along with the tradition that has been handed down to them through generations.
Accordingly, these Kolams have social and spiritual significance. It is believed that these designs invite Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, into their homes. In addition, it is also believed that the Kolams would also drive away the evil spirits and bring wealth and prosperity.
“The Kolam signifies auspiciousness and prosperity. It is placed at the entrance of the house so that it brings peace of mind and calmness to those who see it. If one is peaceful at heart, that good vibe will spread to those he or she associates with, making the entire day pleasant,” Rev. Ishwara Sharma, a religious and cultural expert based in Jaffna told the Nation.
Designing the Kolam is a process of its own. Water is sprinkled on the ground so that the moisture would hold the flour.
Before designing the Kolam, the designers place dots using the dried rice flour. These dots are generally placed at equal distance from each other in order to make the designing process easy. The designs are then drawn based on dots of rice flour arranged according to different grid patterns.
They are worked out by running them through these dots. Movements are controlled and fast, testimony to practise that began at an early stage.
The designers use only the forefinger and the thumb to draw Kolam. Then a pattern is created by either joining the dots using straight or curved lines or by drawing lines between and around the dots. During religious festivals and family events, the usually white designs become more vivid. They are adorned with brightly coloured powders and fresh flowers along with symbols related to the nature of the event.
Kolams are an integral part of the Tamil and Hindu culture. They are drawn mostly during celebrations. These patterns of vivid colourations are created using coloured rice flour, coloured gram powder or coloured coconut refuse.
The designs are either traditional or take certain symbols such as peacocks or flowers that are connected to the Tamil or Hindu culture.
Unlike in India, the practice of drawing Kolam is not just restricted to women. The whole family joins in the drawing of the designs. Some use Kolam as the sacred ground where the new pot with milk is kept at the auspicious time, until it boils and the milk flows out, symbolizing prosperity for the coming year.
Kolams have a different and noble purpose too. They are traditionally made with rice flour as a source of food for the ants and birds. “Traditionally, Kolams were designed using plain rice flour. There is a reason. When we place the Kolam, we unintentionally feed many lives including ants and birds,” Rev Sharma added.
However, nowadays people have begun to use chemicals to colour the powders, which is fatal to the animals. This is also considered a great way to exercise.
The traditional forms of Kolam have a scientific basis. They are symmetric around X and Y axis, with rounded edges and a combination of several simple designs superimposed over each other. This is similar to the concept of harmonics in physics, where each harmony responds to a certain frequency. The combination would yield sounds pleasing to the mind. This could be applied to what one sees, where corresponding harmonies are present for each frequency.
The combinations of these are considered to give rise to artistic patterns, which are pleasing and calming to the mind.