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
KŌLAM et KALAM, Peintures rituelles éphémères de l’Inde du Sud
Author: Chantal Jumel (Recipient of the SCAM award 2010)
Geuthner Publisher http://www.geuthner.com/livre/kolam-kalam-peintures-rituelles-ephemeres-de-l%5c-inde-du-sud/911
(French language – Illustrations – Book with a DVD Video)
South Indian auspicious thresholds and ritual designs
Ephemeral drawings applied daily on the threshold of the houses or in temples are called kolam in Tamil-Nadu and kalam in Kerala and bear testimony to the richness of Indian graphical patrimony. These two states decline ephemeral painting according to two different modes: a daily and domestic feminine activity in the Tamil country and an occasional activity executed for specific rituals by male specialists in Kerala.
If you are interested by the French version, please contact me by using the related page.