Because of this post at All Things Paper (which, by the way, is a fine, fine blog), I have discovered a new beautiful thing: Kolam, or Rangoli. Women draw these ephemeral patterns on the ground outside their doorsteps. Similar to sand painting, white and colored rice powder is used to create the art. Dots and lines are drawn first, to guide the pattern.
Just before daylight, a village woman prepares the ground before the entrance of her house. After the day's initial tasks are done, she sweeps the front porch area with a broomstick made of coconut fronds. The sound of her broomstick striking the earth resonates with those of other women who are also sweeping their thresholds. Soon there is an orchestra of brooms signaling to those still in bed that morning is coming and that it is nearly time to rise.
After sweeping, she prepares her earth canvas by first coating the ground with a mixture of water and cow dung, which has been chosen for its purification value. Then, with deft and nimble fingers, she first lays out a regular pattern of dots with white powder. By letting the powder run smoothly between thumb and forefingers as if she were pouring dry water, she composes a continuous line, which turns and twists around the initial dots. Some women can draw up to four lines at once, as the powder slips through poised fingers. Sometimes a woman knows a pattern by heart, and sometimes she will create a pattern that is entirely new and unique. Each type of design has a name and a symbolic meaning. On festival days, kolams are particularly large and magnificent.
The Spousal Unit and I spent a good chunk of time last night, mesmerized by videos of women gracefully spreading delicate swoops and curls. Here are two of our favorites: