Hindu’s Meenakshi temple’s kolams are repainting now, outstanding works of art

madurai-meenakshi-templeMADURAI: The frescoes on the roof of Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple and the kolams (rangoli) patterns on the floor are outstanding works of art. The kolams, drawn by connecting lakhs of dots, are obviously the outcome of strenuous efforts. Now, efforts are being taken to preserve and repaint the kolams.

A grand kolam connected by one lakh dots is in the corridor near the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Sundareswarar. It was drawn by a group of women about 35 years ago to keep the tradition alive and also as a form of penance. Family members of the original artists are now repainting them and are expected to complete the exercise in a day or two.

Painting of kolams in the temple was started by Lalitha Sankar. She had learnt its intricacies from S V Thambirasu, a master kolam artist. Lalitha used to draw beautiful kolams on the floor of the temple way back in 1979. Subsequently, a small group of women trained by her managed to draw one lakh kolams in the temple corridors. They were repainted from time to time. Now, Lalitha’s daughters-in-law have taken up the task. They first draw the design with chalk and then paint over it. They are guided by older women adept in the art.

When learnt well, the dotted kolams, known as pulli kolams, can take any form in the hands of an artist, said Aravind Kumar Sankar, son of Lalitha and convenor of the Madurai chapter of INTACH. Even men learnt kolams from Thambirasu, he added.

Aravind is planning to form a trust in his mother’s name so that formal and organized efforts are made to preserve the kolams in the temple.

Aravind’s uncle C R Selvakumar, a professor in the University of Waterloo, has used his mathematic skills to develop newer patterns and techniques of kolam. The basis of pulli kolams lies in seven basic designs, which unfold into millions of dots. “It is like how the ragas are born from swaras,” he said.

Drawing of kolams is an integral part of Indian culture. It is believed kolams bring prosperity to homes. It is also said the wellbeing of the artist is enhanced when one bends to draw the designs early in the morning. A design with a base of 10 or 12 dots takes 10 to 25 minutes to draw depending on artist’s skill. The dots have to be connected in a specific manner.

Source: Times of India