KOLAM……..Art, science, tradition, behind the dots and lines of…. rice powder art

When I was young I was wonder struck to see the hand skills of my mother and grandmother to join the dots of white rice powder (dry or wet paste) on the floor of inside and outside entrance of the house and at prayer place in the house to create design patterns with sound reason and a purpose. This art is popularly known as “kolam”. This decorative hand art is done in temple premises too. These designs are believed to produce positive cosmic forces and vibrancy to the environment.

Kolam art done at Srirangam temple,Tamil Nadu,India for a temple festival

This freehand drawing of kolam art is popular in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. However, in other parts of India this fine art is styled differently. When you use color powder this art takes the name of ‘Rangoli”.

Over these years many times I used to recollect my memories on the creative manifestation of my mother and grandmother’s visual grammar on the subject with only traditional oral training in the house on this art of KOLAM. (History · ‎Variants · ‎Patterns · ‎Research)

Kolam art competition at Chennai,India

Now I am 67 years old and I thought why not I share my thoughts on this wonderful freehand drawing of scientific art patterns with my blog readers to invoke further thoughts and research on this unique art of Tamil tradition.Also fascinating to explore how Kolam and Rangoli patterns have caught the attention of researchers worldwide.

Traditionally kolams are believed to invoke auspiciousness, divinity and ward off evils. This ritual art of kolam is ubiquitous cutting across barriers of creed, caste, rural, urban, rich, poor, educated and illiterate in the state of Tamil Nadu, India.

Kolams are drawn daily in the prayer room or place where the prayer lamp is kept. But one could notice in some of the Tamil speaking very orthodox and traditional Vaishnavites households in the temple city of Srirangam near Tiruchirapalli town in Tamil Nadu in India that the lines in their format of kolams are bent and not straight lines. I tried to know the reasons from the locals and I was not successful.

Photo location:Ekambareswarar Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity lord Shiva, located in the town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, India.

 There are specific kolams attributed to occasions and deities.  It has been a practice (as daily chores of life) that this art is done only by women of the household from time immemorial. Why it is so I am unable get the answer.

 Normally raw rice flour is pinched between the thumb and finger and rubbed together on the floor while moving the hand continuously to create good patterns and designs. To master this art one requires constant practice and concentration.

Kolam art is done on a granite stone pillar at
Narasimhaswamy temple in Namakkal, a town in Namakkal district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, dedicated to the Hindu god Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu.

  Kolam patterns are infinite. It decorates all events, occasions (except death), home and temple festivals celebrated by Hindus across India. (Click the following links for kolam patterns)Images for kolam……… Kolam Stock Photos & Kolam Stock Images – Alamy….. simple kolam images…..kolam images with dots….pulli kolam images..kolam photos tamilnadu…….   Images for chantel jumel kolam…..( Devdutt Pattnaik explains the significance of kolam designs)

Kolam dot designs influenced in designing what is popularly known in Madurai Of Tamil Nadu in India as SUNGUDI saris.Sungudi saris are hand loom woven on pit looms. Kolam patterns influence in connecting dots and patterns of such sari designing with plank dyed contrast borders with zaris.


History and origin of kolam is ambiguous but the science of kolam is beyond artistic colors, shapes, dots, designs and cultural boundaries. However some early references to the origin of word” kolam” in Tamil is recorded in the 13th century inscriptions found in Tirunelveli, referring to the duties performed by Hindu temple women, cleaning the temple floors and decorating it with ‘Kolams”. Some references on Kolam are also found in Tamil literature “Tiruppāvai”. Also references one can find in the twin epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.


Ethnographers, scientists and poets across globe equally appreciated their share of research in kolams’ dots, lines and curves.

Most Kolam patterns and designs include the use of concepts from calculus and applied mathematics. Dr Gift Siromoney of Madras Christian College studied kolam designs to develop picture languages. To know in details more about the scientific influence of kolam, please click the following links. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/_. – ‎Related articles..

I conclude my thoughts on “Kolam” in the words of Gustav Mahler that “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”


27 replies to “KOLAM……..Art, science, tradition, behind the dots and lines of…. rice powder art

  1. Beautiful kolams.. I can barely do the basic ones.. And not very good.. But occasionally I get them okay…
    It is a Lost art form in Mumbai


    1. Thanks for your observations. I am sure you will be able to do a fine job in kolam in the coming days.It has tremendous health potential in the form of stress buster. Cheers💐

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing photographs of the ‘Kolams’ , they are truly beautiful. Even more beautifulis that every design has a meaning. In New Zealand and Australia the Indigenous Cultures have beautiful art work, every dot, mark, colour all has a meaning to it and tells a story.


    1. Thanks for your observations. It is interesting to know about the indigenous cultures of New Zealand and Australia on dotted art work.Thanks onceagain for ferrying into my blog with your informative inputs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was one of my favorite discoveries on my first trip to India. I would watch the process, take some photos and look on in awe at the speed an accuracy of these women to do this every morning. I could travel around just to do an expose’ on this aspect alone. Thanks for sharing!


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