Sunday, February 03, 2008

Food for arthropods, protective shields that ward off the evil eye, welcome mats or road side art?


They are often the first sounds of the day. Under the jamun coloured sky a gate opens, groaning and creaking, protesting at being woken up so early in the morning, Water is splashed from a chipped plastic bucket, not poured, not sprinkled but splashed. Handfuls scooped out and flung against the dusty earth before one’s home. And then a silence, punctuated by the shuffle of feet and the occasional jin-chuk of anklet bells. The length of this silence varies. It depends on the mood of anklet wearer, what day of the week it is, what month it is, auspiciousness levels and whether kaavi is to be added or not. During certain months, a subtle, unspoken rivalry comes in to play. Designs become more elaborate. Arabesques, curlicued flowers and chariots spill out on to the street. Adept hands turn bland rice powder in to menageries bursting with peacocks, butterflies, elephants and leaping fish. Without measuring aids pullis are spaced with military precision and then looped and joined together in an elaborate version of connect the dots. Like imperious rulers ordering about their court artisans, some women stand guard urging the hand that creates to go further, try harder and be more imaginative as though their glory is somehow reflected in these creations. But unlike monuments dedicated to lovers, portraits and poetry that are preserved for posterity, these works of art are ephemeral and will not live to see the next day.

13 comments:

Ravages/CC said...

It is doubtful whether kolams are geometrical acts of kindness. It's also doubtful whether kolams are purificatory acts. They could be; most things are usually lots of things. There are a great many ways to purify something in Indian tradition; but kolams are unique, more or less, to south India. What do the kolam-artists say when they're asked why they draw these gorgeous graphs?

From Round Dice: Kolam, what the hand said

Read the whole thing. Super stuff (as is your post)

(Round dice link via Aadishtan)

Shyam said...

Ah, but the art is renewed every day :) That's the good part.

vivalavi said...

My favorite part of Marghazhi. My grandmother creates the most complicated and beautiful designs, it's an amazing sight to watch.

This is a pretty good one in itself. :)

Gayathri said...

Kolam! brings back my childhood memories! Big padi kolams for festivals, maargazhi with an added pooshani poo, little fights among the cousins on who will apply kaavi! Awesome days :)

Your blog is very interesting! Love the attention you give for tiny details..makes the readers to transform into the place you are writing about. Keep up the great work!

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radhika said...

i always envied my chittis and mannis who could put kolam in front of their doorsteps every morning so effortlessly...

very well written, as usual :-)

noon said...

Lovely post Shoefie! I used to enjoy this "unsaid rivalry" when we went to our grandmother's village for summer holidays...Esp on procession evenings, the creations were awesome. And during Margazhi, it was elaborate and beautiful...Enjoyed going back to those days while reading your post...

Jillu Madrasi said...

unspoken rivalry enna -- now there are kolam competitions in Mylapore every January.

who judges, who wins etc. still remains unknown.

But little girls and middle-aged mamas give stiff competition to the usual practioners of the intricate art.

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

"these works of art are ephemeral and will not live to see the next day" - unless they are drawn on red brick while visiting your US-based children. In which case they linger on, fading reminders of parental visits.

Jillu Madrasi said...

Oh bhelpuri -- beautiful!

inba said...

Lovely post! Wish you had made a mention of the massive inferiority complex that these Margazhi Maharanis give kolam-challenged women like me :/

Divya Das said...

beautifully written..

Anonymous said...

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