What is a Kolam?
The word ‘Kolam’ is used in the Tamil language to denote geometric patterns created based on dots (“pulli”) and ornate lines (“kodu”). There is a clear linkage between kolam and various branches of mathematics such as abstract algebra, sequences and fractals.
Every morning, millions of households across many states in India have one common ritual cutting across class and social divide. It is the tradition of decorating the entrance to the home with exquisite Kolam designs.
The Kolam patterns are drawn by hand using powdered rice. Sometimes, colored dyes are used to further decorate the kolams. The purpose of drawing Kolam designs is to enhance the aesthetics of the home and also provide food for birds and insects.
We put together a simple tutorial for drawing a basic Kolam pattern.
Step 1: Draw the Framework Using Dots
The first step is to draw the framework/grid using dots. Start with a single dot, then add three dots parallel to the imaginary line carrying the first dot. Then add 5 dots parallel to the 3 dots and finally add 7 dots parallel to the 5 dots. Now repeat the pattern of dots in the reverse order from 5 down to 3 and finally a single dot.
Step 2: Start Drawing at the Sides
Start drawing a flipped, stylized "L" on the top right corner of the dots framework as you see in the image.
Step 3: Add a Diamond Pattern
Now, extend the ends of the flipped, stylised "L" into a diamond with rounded edges.
Step 4: Replicate the L Plus Diamond Design
Repeat the pattern that combined the stylised L and the diamond pattern on the bottom of the grid framework. Now you end up with exactly one-half of the complete Kolam pattern.
Step 5: Repeat the Pattern on the Left Side
All you have to do to complete the design (almost) is to repeat the same design on the left side of the grid.
Feel free to start on the left and complete the right side of the grid framework as well.
Step 6: Complete With Four Circles
All you have left now are four dots in the centre of the grid framework. Go ahead and circle the four dots. Now you have a simple Kolam design!
Kolam designs are deceptively simple. Once you start practising them, you will be sucked into a world of patterns and colours. It takes determination and proper planning to complete complicated Kolam designs.
To learn more about the different types of Kolam designs, video tutorials of more complex Kolam designs, and in-depth insights on the history and the culture of Kolam, read this article.