I went to the Mylapore festival just to see the kolams on North Mada Street at the kolam contest.
Do click on the pictures for an enlarged view
Squares about three or four feet wide had been marked and numbered, and contestants were given each a bag of white powder and 40 minutes to exhibit their skills.
Kolams are the patterns traditionally drawn by women with rice flour on the ground, smeared and cleaned with cowdung, in front of their homes. It is considered auspicious, and of course decorative and ornamental.
Cowdung is used for its anti bacterial properties, and helps to make the ground smooth and dark. Rice flour is used so that living beings like ants and birds can feed off it.
This art has been prevalent for so many centuries, handed down from generation to generation, learnt by girls by watching other women do it. To these they add their own creations and designs, letting their imagination and artistic skills take over.
Women who have never been to schools, and cannot count even up to thirty, can with ease draw kolams which require even a hundred dots.
At the Mylapore festival, no colours are allowed for the kolams (which then become rangolis) and the rule says they have to be based on pullis (dots), the traditional way of drawing them.
Neither age nor gender was a deterrent to the participants’ enthusiasm.
This is a post script. In many homes in Chennai, it is the domestic helper who does the kolam in the mornings in front of the house. Here is my assistant with her creation in front of our neighbour's house on Pongal day.
And this is My World Tuesday this week at Mylapore.