Nâga or the serpent-gods, interlace patterns and knots

Posted by Chantal Jumel
Nâga dans un temple
Nâgas are divine beings, half-man, half serpent. They are said to reside in underground abodes such as mines and caves. They are also considered as water-spirits who dwell in ponds, lakes and seas in beautiful palaces studded with the most exquisite gems. The secret of these treasures will only be revealed to the one who is pure in heart. People worship them to prevent barrenness, blindness and skin diseases.
Nâga on a temple pillar
In South India, carved stones called nâgakal and snake kôlam are many and varied in design. We find them in temples or along the roads, hidden between the roots of a pipal tree (Ficus Religiosa). The kôlam depict either one snake or several gracefully coiled serpents. Their tails entwined into a skillful maze bear resemblance to sikku kôlam made up with one or several continuous lines intersecting themselves forming knots (see previous article). Some women advise not to draw them on pavements or on significant crossing areas because it would be an ominous sign to trample them. The diagrams find place in the puja-room, in the kitchen or in temples to keep snakes away from human beings.
nâga nâga
nâga nâga
Illustrations from my book  « Voyage dans l’imaginaire Indien, Kôlam, dessins éphémères des femmes tamoules » Editions Geuthner. Upcoming release mid july. An English version is on the way…

How to draw a sikku kôlam

Posted by Chantal Jumel

Sikku kôlam

Kôlam made by a single continuous line or several lines running around dots are called sikku kôlam and exist to my knowledge only in Tamil-Nadu. They distinguish themselves from other kôlam by their entangled lines. Certain local beliefs see in these uninterrupted delineations an efficient charm against malevolent forces and evil eye. Temple sculptures formed by a unique or several never-ending lines which crisscross themselves develop sometimes into complex and recurring patterns.

The meeting points of the entwined lines are knots. During certain rituals in India, the sacrificial area is surrounded by one or several ropes to prevent the entry of evil influences. Actors and dancers wear almost permanently a talisman made of several threads tied at regular intervals to ward off evil eye. Knots display mixed messages, they represent constraints, complications or union of two beings, a social link or a cosmic link. The sikku kôlam directory includes nose ornaments, arm rings, crowns, thrones or ritual objects as rose water sprinkler, vases for melted butter and representation of oil lamps. We find also depictions of palanquins, temple chariot, cradles etc.

I have heard women say that drawing too many sikku kôlam leads to family conflicts and conversely women capable of mastering the intricacies of a sikku kôlam will be able to sort out difficult situations when they arise at home.

Coupe Aspersoir à fragrance

Cikku kôlam 1  Cikku kôlam 2

Cikku kôlam 3 Cikku kôlam 4

Illustrations from my book  « Voyage dans l’imaginaire Indien, Kôlam, dessins éphémères des femmes tamoules » Editions Geuthner. Upcoming release mid july. An English version is on the way.

How to draw padi kolam or kolam with lines

Posted by Chantal Jumel

The line kolam are drawn using parallel lines which cross over at right angles or diagonally. They may start from a dot or a square and form basic structures such a square, a circle, a cross with diagonals, a swastika or two superimposed triangles. To enlarge a padi kolam, we add a series of parallels lines from which new lines join the preceding ones. Around the design, lotuses, conches or other ornamental motives complete the kolam.

These patterns are more abstract and celebrate the upstrokes and downstrokes of Hindu philosophical speculations.  Undeniably, the outlines organized around the center draw the eyes towards the heart of the drawing. Like a yantra or a mandala, negative powers are prevented from entering by the very presence of four stylized gates facing the cardinal directions. The center of a padi kôlam is never left blank and we find one or several dots, diagonal lines, the sun and the moon, a pentagon or a star hexagon.

How to draw a kolam with dots

Posted by Chantal Jumel

There are two types of kôlam :One with dots and one with lines.

Points alignés Points en quinconce

The one with dots can be either face to face or in alternate rows.These dots form the background for pictures of birds, animals, flowers or gods.


Contourner les points

In order to draw a picture, you can join the dots with a straight line or a curve.



Relier les points

You can also draw around them with a single and continuous line or several lines crossing over one another.


Canevas arbre Arbre

Canevas lotusVariations lotus