Come Pongal and many of the roads, lanes and by-lanes of South India present a riot of colors, with elaborate Kolam drawn using white and colored powders in front of houses, shops and offices. While the Kolam is drawn throughout the year in most homes in South India, it is especially significant during Pongal.History of Kolam
The colorful Kolam tradition dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization (2500 B.C). In the Mahabharata, the gopis (milkmaids) drew kolams to forget the pain that they experienced when their beloved Krishna is away. At a much later date, Kolam-drawing is listed as one of the 64 forms of art in Vatsyayana's Kamasutra.
The art of Kolam is known throughout India but by different names - Sanjhi in Uttar Pradesh, Alpana in Bengal, Mandana in Rajasthan, Chaukpurna in Madhya Pradesh, Rangoli in Maharashtra and Karnataka, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh and Puvidal in Kerala. Although essentially a Hindu tradition, kolam is also known to the Jains, Buddhists and Parsis. It is said that Gautama Buddha was himself an expert in this art.Significance
The Kolam is much more than just an aesthetic art. It symbolizes happiness and prosperity. Insects and birds feed on the rice flour used for drawing the traditional Kolam at the entrance of houses. Thus, the Kolam represents man's concern for all living creatures. The Kolam and the bright red border or kaavi enclosing it are also believed to prevent evil and undesirable elements from entering the houses.Drawing Pongal Kolam
On the day of Pongal, family members jointly draw the kolam with rice flour that can be plain as well as colored. Parallel straight lines can be drawn using a cylindrical rod (Ulakai) as a guide. A kolam can be a plain one or can be artistically drawn with symbols of cosmic interest. The kolam defines the sacred area where the Pongal is prepared.
Within the perimeters of kolam, typically, firewood is used to cook the rice. The Pongal is set up in the direct view of the Sun (East). Traditionally, the kolam is laid in the front or side of the house, but in cold climes where cooking indoors with firewood is hazardous, the Pongal can be prepared in kitchen and brought to the location where kolam is set up.