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Kolam art
Members of Tamil Takkal Mandram with kolam by Priya Govindarajam, Kolam art, 2016; Tamil Takkal Mandram, Inc.; Newton, Massachusetts; Photography by Maggie Holtzberg
Members of Tamil Takkal Mandram with kolam by Priya Govindarajam, Kolam art, 2016
Tamil Takkal Mandram, Inc.
Newton, Massachusetts
Photography by Maggie Holtzberg
Sridevi Karhikeyan posing with her finished kolam depicting two peacocks; kolam art; 2016; Sridevi Karthikeyan; Newton, Massachustts; stone dust
Sathya Ramesh laying a grid of stone dust; kolam art; art: Newton, MA
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Tamil Takkal Mandram
Bedford, MA
Kolam art has been practiced throughout southern India for hundreds of years, with mentions dating back to the Ramayana. These brightly colored rice flour designs adorn the thresholds of homes and temples every day, as well as streets and sidewalks at festival times. During the month of Margazhi Maadham, many women wake up before dawn to begin preparing designs in front of their homes that take several hours to complete. Once finished, neighbors compare each other's designs in an informal competition.

Kolams designs range from highly organized to freehand. Geometric designs are started by laying down a grid of dots which are then connected by drawing lines or curves of white rice flour. Once all the lines are connected, colors are added to fill in the design. Some kolams are used specifically for holy days and locations, while others are more secular and celebratory. Though types and designs may vary widely, all kolams have deep symbolic meaning.

Priya Karthigai, Sathya Ramesh and Sridevi Karthikeyan all grew up in Tamil Nadu and learned this daily but ephemeral art from their mothers. In India the time spent creating kolam together recalled fondly as being warm and social. Although American life does not make it easy, they still use kolam here as a tool of connection, both culturally and spiritually.
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