I am happy to share with you the release on august 13th of my book on south Indian Kolam. The English version is on the way and the title will be “Journey into Indian imagination, kolam, ephemeral drawings of Tamil women”
Extract from the introduction translated by Isabel Putinja
Welcoming the day
“What a wonderful way to welcome the day: with drawings made of rice flour. It doesn’t matter what you make of it at first glance, a kôlam attracts your attention because of its exquisite patterns. Seen through my western eyes, they remind me of delicate lace doilies. The many thread-like drawings also evoke the ephemeral decorations made of carpets of coloured sawdust or flowers during the Christian festival “corpus Christi”. Something truly surprising happens when a woman’s hands trace these beautiful patterns on the ground and the rice powder meets the dust of the earth.
A stroll at dawn through the towns and villages of Tamil Nadu requires not only an attentive eye which attempts to make out the surroundings, but also a sharp ear. Almost imperceptibly, objects take shape and welcome the birth of a new day, taking on an appearance which is at once resonant, fluid and rhythmic. The chirping of nocturnal insects and cawing of crows is followed by the rustling sounds made by straw brooms and the slapping noise of water being thrown onto the ground horizontally from metal basins. The tiny drops are suspended for the fraction of an instant, forming a transparent veil which falls softly to the ground or bounces joyously onto the pavement.
In the half-light, women holding boxes of white powder call out to each other while sizing up the spot where their drawings will come to life. Bending from the hips and keeping the back at a sharp angle, the women’s wrists provide a rhythmical control to their fingers as they create evenly spaced rows of discreet dots of rice flour or quartz powder, called pulli in Tamil. It is on this dotted line of perfect symmetry that flowers, birds and deities or geometrical patterns will emerge…”
© Copyright 2013 Chantal jumel
Isabel has a wonderful blog and we met for an interview on kolam
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.