The sun has not risen yet, but the Rice Flour Artist has. It is 5 am and she has already taken her morning shower. Her hair is freshly washed, still wrapped in a towel at the base of her head. She puts on her bindi, walks to the prayer room and turns on the lamp. She finishes her prayers, plays M.S Amma’s Venkateshwara Suprabatham* and leaves to find the broom. Her mind is as quiet as her surroundings and this is a source of great contentment to her. There is neither any one or any thing to disturb her. This time is solely for her. She thinks about the experiences this new day will bring her.
She steps over the threshold of the doorstep, armed with a broom, a vessel of water* and a container filled with rice flour of the coarse variety*. The area just outside the front door is swept, water is splashed generously and now,excitement kicks in as she decides on the magnificient design she is going to try out. Sikku/puli* or padi*? The decision is tough, but she finally decides to go with a padi kolam*. It will take slightly more time to complete and is a bit more elaborate, but it is after all, her sister’s birthday today.
She pinches the flour between her thumb and her forefinger and releases the flour onto the ground along with the depths of her imagination. Her lines are neatly drawn, the curves are smooth and her circles are perfect. Some extra swirls here, a few dots there and she is done. The sun rises and the stream of light that falls across her kolam reveals a few ants that are gnawing away at her creation. She smiles as she collects her things and goes back inside. Mission accomplished. The whole point of her doing this daily is to feed a thousand souls in the form of little ants before her day officially starts. The ants rejoice, for their meal for the day has been obtained and take the grains of flour back with them, leaving only gratitude and blessings for the soul that fed them at the threshold.
After her sister’s birthday is duly celebrated, the Rice Flour Artist accompanies her sister who visits the neighbours to distribute sweets and get their blessings. They walk past dozens of kolams, all beautiful and all so very unique. There is a huge, intricate padi kolam outside Anuradha maami*’s home. “What’s the special occasion maami? Special kolam today?!” She smiles and proudly announces that her daughter’s marriage has been fixed. “Aaaah that explains it…Congratulations! Have you seen Haripriya? There is no kolam outside her place. Is everything ok?”. “She is fine, but one of her relatives just passed away so she won’t be putting kolams for a while”.
And so, pleasantries along with news were exchanged and the girls returned home. By this time, several people, animals and motorcycles had passed over the kolam of the Rice Flour Artist and it was just a mere trace of what it had been. Not to worry though, as it is only a matter of a few hours before dawn approaches and the designs of the Rice Flour Artist reclaim the threshold. Every design is better than the last of course- practice makes perfect!
p.s. every Indian home has a rice flour artist. There are millions of rice flour artists around the world in the guise of mothers, daughters and daughter-in-laws.
What sorts of kolams do you like? Please do comment below- I am especially interested in the types of kolams drawn in the puja room/special occasion kolams and would love to learn about them!
Glossary: Venkateshwara Suprabatham- prayer played at dawn, usually sung by the famous singer, M.S. Subbulakshmi . Water is used nowadays although traditionally, an anti-septic, cow-dung mixture was used to keep infections at bay. Kolam- rice flour design on the ground. Coarse rice flour- makes life a whole lot easier when doing a kolam(was used in image above). It flows between the fingers much better. Fine rice flour can also be used if preferred. Sikku/puli- types of kolam made using dots as a guide. Padi- freehand style of drawing kolam. Maami- married Brahmin woman.
I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Any Brahmin influences on my writing a solely a product of my imagination and my interaction with Tambrahm friends. Happy reading! – Divya