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Kolams – Auspicious Mandala Symbols of India

Kolams are a symbol of auspiciousness.  It is a Hindu belief that that the geometrical patterns & designs applied with rice flour at the entrance to a home, invites Goddess Lakshmi into the household, and drives away the evil spirits.  It is mostly a South Indian tradition, practised widely in Tamilnadu.

Traditionally, the women wash the path in front of the house. (Cowdung is used to clean up the ground, though this practise is no longer in vogue in the cities, mainly because cowdung is not easily available & most entrance path are now laid in cement or tiles.)  Finely ground rice powder is then used to apply kolams. The reason for using rice flour is that one is providing food for the ants & other small insects.  It was a way of welcoming other beings into one’s home and everyday life: a daily tribute to harmonious co-existence. In these days finely ground white stone powder is used, for this is easier to apply & also the kolams are brighter & well finished.  Even if ground stone powder is used, one could mix rice flour in it.

The month of Dhanur Maasa or name Margazhi (Dec 14th to Jan 14th), derives from the star Mrigashirsha and is considered very auspicious month for religious services. During this month the sun transits through Sagittarius sign, the house of Jupiter and ends with the Makara Sankranti. During this period fairly large size Kolams are put in front of the houses, with additional decoration of Kolams with yellow flowers of pumpkin.

Kolams are known by different names in different parts of India. Hase in Karnataka, Muggulu in Andrapradesh, Chowkpurna in Uttar Pradesh, Alpana in Bengal and Assam, and Rangoli in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Coming up – Types of Kolam, how to draw a Kolam and Kolam Colouring pages

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