If you are a regular visitor to my blog you may have noticed that I have already published my photos for this week’s fun foto challenge hosted by Cee on Looking Down on Things. But as I mentioned, I have a few more photos to share on this topic.
I opted for a separate post for these photos because they are an insight into Indian art, thought, philosophy and way of life.
In many parts of India (and Asia), patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals. Usually these patterns (rangoli or alpana) are made on the occasion of religious festivals and auspicious functions such as weddings. But in South India, these drawings called kolam (among other things depending on region) are made in front of the house, every morning.
Kolams are not only decorative but are also believed to bring prosperity. Kolams were traditionally made of coarse rice flour – it serves as food for ants so that they don’t have to walk too far for a decent meal. It is also an invitation to birds and other smaller creatures. Kolams symbolize thinking beyond the self; the philosophy that the greatest joy is in giving rather than receiving. Only if you give, will you receive.And no one is too poor to feed another or welcome another.
Every morning, women of the house clean their homes, courtyard, road and draw patterns with rice flour. The kolams are generally drawn while the surface is still damp so the design will hold better. As a child I remember watching Aunty as she drew bigger and bigger patterns without moving from her crouched position on the floor with just a flick of her wrist holding the rice powder between her thumb and forefinger. It was like magic.
Walking back from the beach after witnessing a breathtaking sunrise, I was taken aback to see kolams on the road. The streets were deserted now but soon they would be bustling with activity. The patterns were sure to be trampled upon – why would anyone deliberately let their work of art be destroyed?
It was only later that I began to see the glimmerings of the deeper philosophy behind this tradition. Kolams on the road symbolize the impermanence of life and everything in it. It is a daily reminder to go ahead with our tasks without being attached to it.
Today’s work won’t last forever, be prepared to do it over and over again, all the days of your life. Be grateful for the new day, this life and another opportunity to create a new kolam, once again.