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Kolam – An Intricate Art Form Of Tamil Nadu

Kolam is an inherent part of the culture of Tamil Nadu. It is an artistic work of intricate designs, drawn on the floor of almost every household in the state. Kolam mainly portrays the skillful creative work of the women of Tamil Nadu. Though it is well-known as a tradition of South India it is widely popular across different parts of India with the names of Rangoli or Alpana.

India - Sights & Culture - 026 - Chalk welcome drawings
Photo of ‘India – Sights & Culture – 026 – Chalk welcome drawings’ by McKay Savage under CC BY 2.0

History and Origin of Kolam

There are multiple beliefs on the history and origin of Kolam. Studies show that it originated way back in 2500 BC during the Indus Valley civilization. Historians have also found out traces of kolam patterns in South Kanara Jain temples. In the Vedas, there is a reference to the practice of drawing on the ground which also leads to the ancient origin of kolam.

What is the significance of Kolam?

Kolam is applied in households due to the auspicious significance associated with it. In Hindu mythology, it is believed to ward off evil and welcome Goddess Lakshmi for prosperity and wealth. Some kolams are significant and applied for worshipping and respecting certain deities. During Lakshmi Puja, Saraswati Puja and Janmashtami, small symbols of feet are made especially within the kolam designs to welcome the Gods and Goddesses inside the house and bless everyone.

How is Kolam prepared?

Kolam can be prepared in two ways. One is using the dry rice flour and the other is making the rice flour wet with water. The entire kolam pattern and design are created with the help of the expert and artistic movement of the hands.

At first, the floor where the kolam is supposed to be made is cleaned with a broom and mopping with a cloth dipped in water. As per the belief in Hinduism, water with cow dung is sometimes sprinkled for piety. Then the ladies pick up the dry rice flour from a bowl and holds it stiffly between the thumb and the forefinger. They apply the rice flour pinch by pinch on the floor while forming neatly curved motifs. While applying the rice flour soaked in water, you need either a cloth or chalk. The cloth is rinsed with the rice paste and using the fingers to immitate as a pen, the kolam is created.

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In a typical Tamil house, the kolam is either applied near the doorstep or inside the house in front of the Gods and Goddesses. It signifies the prestige and self esteem of the Tamil women folk, of their ability to draw the curves of kolam in one stroke. Throughout the state, various events are organized where the Tamil women showcase their extraordinary capabilities in drawing exceptional patterns of kolam. The contests are mainly held during the month of Margazhi. The ladies pass on this tradition and culture from one generation to the next, thus ensuring the practice continues as years pass by.

What are the Different Patterns of Kolam?

Kolam follows myriad types of the pattern starting from geometrical shapes to figures and even spectacular sceneries. The most popular is the geometrical form, represented by dots, circles, squares, rectangles and so on. The simplest of them is the one done with dots. It is called as dotted or pulli kolam. The significant part of this pattern is the formation of a grid framework using dots, which result in different symmetrical geometric shapes. The dots are made using rice flour.

Figures of birds and animals, flowers, trees and even idols of deities are drawn with bright colours and ornate designs. The colours are imparted using other grains, vegetables, fruits, shells, and beads. Auspicious signs and representations are also used in kolam patterns like the conches or lamps or divine letters and words or lotus.

How many Types of Kolam exist?

The Kolams, essentially drawn during the prominent festivals and religious ceremonies, are created with complicated designs and signifies a unique concept for each festive event.  The ones drawn every day are much simpler.

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The important festivals like Pongal, Janmashtami, Lakshmi Puja, Diwali, witness the extraordinary and exceptional skills of the women in creating eye-catching decorations of kolam. You can find vegetables and fruits mainly during Pongal. Lamps gain prominence during Diwali whereas in Janmashtami and Lakshmi Puja tiny feet are drawn to welcome Lord Krishna and Goddess Lakshmi. Kolams are also applied during specific family events like birth, marriage and even to pray for the departed soul.

On Fridays, almost all the households in Tamil Nadu apply kolam to usher in Goddess Lakshmi. Kolams are also drawn to welcome visitors, friends or relatives. The ones created every day consist of twists and turns forming knots at the ends.

Why is Rice Flour used for Kolam?

In Hindu mythology, the wordings from ancient saints and learned scholars talk about charity and act of kindness. The kolam is not an exception to the belief. The rice flour along with other grains attracts ants and insects. They feed on the flour, which denotes generosity and goodwill.

Kolam is one of the traditional and contemporary art forms in southern India, which indicates the competency of the women in illustrating significant designs and motifs. It is a treat to the eye to watch the expert movement of their hands as they minutely carve out the details in the design with brilliance.

Featured Photo of ‘Kolam’ by Simply CVR under CC BY-ND 2.0


Kuntala is an IT consultant specialising in Product sales. She has an ardent interest in travelling to various destinations across the world. She is a blogger writing articles on travel, food, health. She also building up a site of her own to share blogs of her travel experience.

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