Kolam or Rangoli Art: Science & Significance

Last updated on June 20th, 2024 at 11:22 am

Kolam or Rangoli is an artform that has been used to decorate entrances since ages. Traditionally, females in the family used to draw kolam designs using rice flour, and this was practiced daily in the morning as well as on special occasions like festivals or religious events. Today, white stone powder or chalk powder is used to draw rangoli and even males of the house take part in this practice.

Kolam designs consist of lines, curves and loops. Simple and complex shapes may also be used in the composition, along with forms of birds, animals, sun, moon, stars and other elements found in nature. Traditionally, the kolam or rangoli is drawn around a grid of dots and it is mandatory to complete the shapes.

Kolams are also called muggulu and they are an integral part of the culture of South Indian states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In several houses in these parts of India, women in the house draw kolams at the house entrance, daily at dawn. Before sunrise, the area where kolam is to be drawn is swept clean and sprinkled with water. The water helps the flour or stone powder hold better on the surface. The surface may also be waxed with cow dung before drawing the kolam, as cow dung has antiseptic properties and thus prevents bacteria or germs from entering the house. Through the day, the rangoli or kolam may be walked on, washed off or blown away, but the next morning the house entrance is cleaned and sprinkled with water again, for a new rangoli.

Motifs and Patterns in Kolam Designs

Motifs may include images of fish, birds and other animals, which represents the union of humans and animals.

Zodiac symbols, sun and moon may also be used.

Certain shapes and images used in kolam have some symbolism. For example, a downward-pointing triangle represents a woman while an upward-pointing triangle is symbolic of a man. A lotus shape symbolizes a womb. A pentagram is symbolic of Venus and the five elements.

Greetings like ‘welcome’ or ‘happy new year’ may also be incorporated into kolam designs.

The designs have been passed across generations and over the years, the tradition of kolam drawing has greatly evolved. Today, due to social networking websites, kolam artists can showcase their art online and many of them have garnered a huge following. Owing to social media, the art of kolam and rangoli has reached far and wide and gained popularity the world over.

Spiritual Significance of Kolam

  • The Kolam which traditionally includes imagery of animals, birds and astronomical objects, represents a harmonious coexistence of humans and animals.
  • The original purpose of drawing kolam using rice flour was to enable the ants and other creatures to find their food easily, without having to walk for long distances or inside the house.
  • Kolam or rangoli has been a way to greet not just guests into the house, but also birds and other small animals who would come in search of food. Kolam designs created using rice flour served a decorative purpose and were also the food of insects and birds, who would feed on the flour and return satisfied from the entrance of the house.
  • It is believed that kolam is the means to greet goddess Lakshmi into the house, and thus usher abundance and prosperity.
  • The practice of completing lines and closing shapes while drawing the kolam, is said to prevent evil spirits from entering the design and effectively the house.
  • Engaging in kolam creation can help develop an appreciation of culture and traditions and enhance the understanding of cultural diversity.
  • Since a new kolam is drawn every day, this practice is a metaphor for the ultimate truth that everything that is created is destroyed and regenerated, or that nothing lasts forever, but can be created again.
  • Drawing a new kolam daily is a reminder to the fact that even if one design is wiped off, you can always create another one, which, in real life, is an analogy to the philosophy that if a certain idea does not work, there is always scope to build a new one, or that is something fails, there is always an opportunity for success in something else.
  • When you draw a new kolam or rangoli design every morning, you are in a way reminding yourself that every day marks the beginning of something new; and that leaving behind ‘yesterday’ and without worrying about ‘tomorrow’, you should only focus on beautifying your ‘today’.

Kolam Effects on the Brain

  • Creating of the kolam enhances your visual skills and spatial abilities. It includes an understanding of shapes and colors, which in turn boosts your ability to interpret and process visual information.
  • For drawing the kolam, hand movements are used. A daily practice of kolam drawing can surely refine your fine motor skills. Kolam drawing can benefit children, as the hand-eye coordination required in this practice, forms the basis of important skills like writing, drawing and undertaking any other work that requires hand movements.
  • Exploring the designs and colors during kolam creation can enhance your creativity and aesthetic skills.
  • Drawing a rangoli design requires concentration and focus. A daily practice of kolam or rangoli creation improves your focus and concentration, increases your attention span, and trains you to be mindful.
  • Since kolam design is an artistic expression, it serves as your creative outlet and gives you creative satisfaction. Creating a kolam or rangoli design is meditative, has a calming effect, reduces stress and fosters relaxation.

Now that you know about the scientific and spiritual aspects of kolam, if you have been thinking of it as a mere decoration at your door, think again. Rangoli drawing is much more than that. It is a way to express yourself through art. Due to the concentration you put into creating the design, the practice is meditative and relaxing. You see your previous rangoli gone, and create a new design in its place with the same or greater enthusiasm daily. Thereby you are training your mind to live in the present and be able ‘start again’. Thus, the kolam tradition which traces its roots to ancient times is blissful in many ways. Include the humble kolam in your daily routine and get ready to see some amazing changes in you.

A few ready-to-use kolams you could order:

Kolam Muggu Backdrop Cloth for Pooja Decoration

Kolam Podu: My Kolam Tracing Book 1 : Grid 3-5-5-5-3 : Trace Lines, Learn Designs, Express Yourself & Draw Happiness

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