When I was a little girl (1940s), we used to get up early and draw the kolams by 5 O’ clock in the morning. The houses in the village looked like row houses that you see now because they were close together and the compound walls were the same.
Young girls drew large kolams in front of home and added a border around it. As our houses were right next to each other, we connected the borders too. If you walked into any street, it looked like the entire street had one just one big kolam inside the border. It was a lot of fun because while we encouraged each other often, there were times when we competed to make bigger and more complicated kolams.
In the month of Marghazhi (mid december to mid january) we put parangi flowers (yellow pumpkin) in the middle of the kolams with some cow dung. Even these flowers were placed following a design or a pattern. In the evening, we collected the cow dung with the parangi flower and patted it down and lay it to dry. The cow dung patty was used as fuel when we cooked on Thai Pongal.
There are two kinds of kolams: Pulli (dotted) kolam or chikku (knotted) kolams and the lined kolams.
In those days, young girls didn’t go out too far from their own homes. This was just around independence, in the late 1940s. So my older sister used to give me a slate and chalk. My job was to go all around our village streets and look at the kolam designs. If I saw any new kolam, then I had to draw the pattern on my slate and bring it back to her. She would add this to her collection of designs and draw it outside our house the next morning.
We didn’t have any colour kolams (rangoli) in those days. We used kola maavu outside our houses and rice flour outside the temple, the Tulasi maadam and in the prayer room.
Now even if I can’t bend down to draw them, the kolams on our street brings back many happy memories of my childhood.
(This article was written by Mrs. Indhumathi)