CFFC: Kolam

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.

rangoli2Kolams 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.

rangoli4Every 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.

rangoli1Walking 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.

Published by


Email me at or tweet me @mysilverstreaks

13 thoughts on “CFFC: Kolam”

  1. This was a great read Dahlia! While I did create many kolam patterns, i never knew their significance. I always enjoy your posts about India and its traditions. You have a beautiful simple way of describing it that piques reader’s interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that there so much in our lives that we hardly give any thought to it. This is especially true for things with which we grow up -we sort of take it for granted. But this was the first time I saw it drawn on the road, outside the makeshift home, it made me think. Happy that it struck a chord Sampada and thanks for your encouraging comment 🙂


  2. Love kolams (one of my earlier obsessions)… a daily ritual and one that is most enjoyable. Love the way the lines angle around, criss cross, and evolve symmetrically into beautiful shapes. Of course, to keep up with the modern times, rice powder is substituted with white rock powder which can be tolerated, but the latest, instant kolam that is available in the market in the form of stickers is a very sad substitute. Competitions are also held …. imagine the myriad of designs in a riot of colours completely covering an entire vast space!!
    Glad you enjoyed the whole experience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kolam on the road gave me a whole new insight into a way of life and philosophy. I am deeply impressed by it. I agree nowadays when I see the stickers I feel so bad about the loss of not only art but of the purpose behind this art. Hope you will make a kolam some day and perhaps I shall get to see it 🙂


  3. Pingback: WPC: Come Let’s Wander – Stories and more

Go on - express yourself!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s