Kolams are ubiquitous throughout South India. You simply cannot miss the stunning patterns adorning the front of homes, be it a humble hut or a mansion. Kolams are made up of lines that flow through and around grids of dots made of rice flour which are then joined take the form of a symmetrical shape or a regular polygon. A practice as old as wall painting and tattoos, the earliest reference to kolams is found in the Sangam literature of 300 BCE to 300 CE. The grid of dots is based on the Fibonacci series and algebraic and numeric principles and the kolam epitomizes geometrical properties of symmetry, periodicity, recursion and rhythm. Symmetry is of key importance to the kolam artist, as it denotes universal balance or the Hindu aspect of Shiva-Shakti.
Besides geometrical shapes, the kolam incorporates natural motifs such as animals, fruit, flowers, and conches.
Traditionally drawn by women on the threshold of a house or an establishment during “brahma muhurtham” (that time of the day when the gods reportedly descend to Earth), the kolam is considered as the meeting point of the internal and the external. Each dot, line, curve, interlinking design, circle, triangle and square, have a symbolic value representing the basic energies of the universe.
The rice powder serves as food for the ants, insects, birds and is said to be equivalent to feeding thousands of living beings. By bending and stretching while putting kolams, one exercises the body and absorbs the ozone in the atmosphere which is abundant in the wee hours. It is also believed that the dots in the kolam represent the male and the lines, the female. These also have a symbolic value in representing the basic energies of the universe. In kolams, no dot is left unconnected or hanging. Folklore has it that these closed patterns prevent evil forces from entering the homes.