Every morning, before the crack of dawn, the state witnesses a unique ritual. Women clean the entrance of their homes, sprinkle water, and set about creating art. The entrance of houses, courtyards and streets in the state are spangled with an abstract art called 'Kolam'.
With its dotted grid, intricate designs, swirls, loops and lines, the Kolam resembles a geometric drawing. An integral part of the morning ritual of the womenfolk of Tamil Nadu, the Kolam is also the state's cultural identity. The Kolam is drawn using rice flour, as a sign of auspiciousness and is considered to bring prosperity to the homes. The art is also popular in other south Indian states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala.
The rhythmic, steady and calculated release of the rice powder between the thumb and forefinger creates abstract, free-flowing art. The patterns are drawn by the women in a swift flourish, without lifting their hand off the floor. The designs are either simple or complex, rich with myriad motifs to represent birds, animals, celestial bodies and so on. The designs are symmetric and unique and the mathematical interpretations involved in the Kolam are being pursued by researchers.
The Kolam is a welcome sign that is drawn in front of houses or an establishment. It's not just used for decoration but these Kolams also figure as food for insects and birds. From a religious context, drawing kolams denotes that Goddess Lakshmi is welcomed and her sister 'Mudevi' is banished.
It is also a prayer and a mark of well-being.