தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

Home

 Whats New

Trans State Nation Tamil Eelam Beyond Tamil Nation Comments Search

Home > Tamil Culture - the Heart of Tamil National Consciousness > Symmetry in Threshold Design in Tamil Nadu

CONTENTS
OF THIS SECTION
Last updated
22/08/07

Tile-based kolam patterns - Saty Raghavachary
Video Presentation on Kolams of South India

Related External Sites


Kolams at Puddukotai

Kolam being created to welcome the day - Video Clip
Kolam -  That which feeds the eyes, feeds the soul  "In the summer of 2004, Srimati Shyamala of Chennai shared with us the kolam practices of South India. A different kolam design is drawn for each day of the week. Each mandala honors the planet that rules over that day. The symbols and patterns that are used are specific to each planet and presiding deity of that day and create a visual prayer, benefiting all who pass by it. .."
Kolam Interactive  "..Generally, a kolam is drawn with bare fingers using predetermined dots...This tradition of decorating with kolams is passed on from generation to generation. ikolam.com is an interesting attempt at preserving this important custom. ikolam.com interactively shows the steps involved in drawing a kolam..."
Kolam Generator
Vortex of Kolams
The Kolam Tradition at American Scientist "..The women of Tamil Nadu in southeastern India traditionally cover their thresholds every morning with elaborate designs drawn with rice powder. Girls learn the ritual from their mothers and other female relatives, and kolam skills are considered a mark of grace, dexterity, discipline and concentration. Drawing the kolam figures is an important part of the Tamil Nadu culture and landscape. But with their orderly and often highly symmetrical designs, which frequently group into families, kolams are also expressive of mathematical ideas. In the last few decades, kolam figures have attracted the attention of computer scientists interested in describing images with picture languages. Different picture languages have been developed to describe different kolam families..."
Kolam- Art Work of India "Kolam refers to decorative artwork drawn on the floor in front of houses and in front of deities in puja rooms. Most often finely ground rice flour is used to make these drawings on wet/moist ground previously sprinkled with water (even dilute solutions of cow-dung cake that gives a darker background to the mud floor). Coloration of the artwork with color powders adds additional charm. It is a time old cultural tradition of south indian families going back to many many generations..."

South Indian Kolam Patterns - Dr.Gift Siromoney  "..Any one traveling through rural Tamil Nadu during the months of December and January will be richly rewarded by the sight of a variety of patterns decorating the courtyards of even the humblest of homes ...The three main classes of kolam recognized in computer mathematics10 are the Finite Matrix Kolam, the Regular Matrix Kolam and the Context-free Regular Array Kolam..."
Kolam at Kamat's Potpourri "..Typically laid with rice powder, Kolam is a women's art in South India with spiritual connections.."
Kolam: The Divine disguised as Cosmic Pattern
Kolams - Traditional Practices
La tradición Kolam (Spanish)
Las figuras Kolam (Spanish)
A Portrait of the Imagination as a Malleable Kolam: K. S. Maniam's In a Far Country - Shanthini Pillai, National University of Malaysia
Kolams "The 'kolam' is a symbol of an open heart and an auspicious welcoming. Its colourful, devotional presence in the villages in the Auroville area is a well appreciated and respected feature, and we're happy to share some of its touch with you through this page.."
Kolams
Stephen P. Huyler - The Art of Worship - Kolam ritual and Hinduism in India

TAMIL culture:
the Heart of Tamil National Consciousness

 

Kolam: Symmetry 
in Threshold Design in Tamil Nadu

 

Courtesy - Manorama Talaiver
April 25, 1995

What is threshold design?

When I was a little girl, my aunt used to get up early in the morning. She would have a shower and then created a symmetrical pattern in the front yard, after cleaning and sprinkling water. Some women in Madras still create these designs. I must admit that I had to drive ten miles from downtown before I found a row of houses with the threshold design. These patterns are normally called "Kolum." O sounds like Oh. U sounds like bun. Kohlum. When the symmetrical pattern is decorated in colors using colored sand or flower, then it is called rangoli.

The design or pattern is not symmetrical sometimes, but it is just a continuous line that curves around to make a beautiful border or design at the Center of the yard. . The threshold desing is compared to African sand drawings.

These patterns or designs were created in the olden days (according to Tamil literature) using rice flour. Holding a handful of flour in their right hand, the woman will uniformly drop the flour to make a line through her thumb and pointer and keep on moving her hands to make the curve or the dots. Nowadays, women use powder made out of stone. (Stone is crushed and sold commercially).

The patterns are very complicated and huge during festival months. The temples will have complex patterns that will cover thousands of square feet. Sometimes, several women together will create one large design. As a child, I have always wondered at the complexity of the pattern and the creativity of the women.

The pattern normally starts with putting the dots as follows:

.

. . .

. . . . .

. . . . . . .

. . . . .

. . .

.

This is a very simple design. You start with seven dots in the middle and you skip two to count down. Then, you will use your creativity to circle around the dots (in most cases) or connect the dots (rarely). When a mother is creating this design, a girl tends to watch this from the time she is a baby.

My thesis is number concept comes very naturally to girls by observing. When the girl grows up, girls have competitions on who can create a complex pattern and with maximum number of points. Skip count, multiplication, geometric design, function concept and concept of closed curves - all of these can be introduced in math classrooms using the threshold. Based on the concept of Kolum, I will be providing lessons here that can be used in math classrooms.

A multicultural Mathematics lesson for Elementary Grades

Objectives:

1. To discuss the life of a little third grader in the morning while she watches her mom doing the symmetrical design.
2. To draw a simple symmetrical design as given in this page.
3, To extend this design to a larger number of points.
4. To create other designs for odd number of points.
5. To explore the design differences that can affect symmetry with the use of odd and even number of points.

Materials needed:

pencil, paper, crayon, (if you are bold, try rice flour in the kitchen floor) Procedure.


Look at the picture. My first design was drawn using 3, 1 points.

My second design was drawn using 5,3,1 points.

My third design was done with 7,5,3,1.

Practice the symmetrical design.

Extend the design to 9 points.

Questions:

How can you extend this further?

When you create the design for larger number of points, what can you infer from the patterns?

Extension:

The next pattern is called Brahma's knot. This design is more complicated to draw.

This is the first level of Brahma's knot

Can you draw this on a sheet of paper?

This is the second level of Brahma's' knot

Can you try the second level?

Now a challenge

What is the next level of Brahma's knot?

Can you draw the design and fax it to me?

My fax number is 804-343-6529. More pictures from India (March 17, 1995)

These were some designs on the pavement in front of a house. These are permanent. These were not created with flour but with paint.

Slowly the tradition of creating threshold design seems to disappear. After five days of my travel in South India, I found this woman creating the threshold design in front of her hut early morning. I hope this tradition that I love and appreciate continues for ever! I found a few houses with permanent designs in the cities. This means that the women do not create the designs every day. They use white paint to create permanent designs.

Something to think about! I was surprised to hear about gender differences in mathematics achievement when I first arrived in the United States.

In India, gender differences and related discussions exist about career choices. Female children are normally advised to become teachers, bank tellers, or even bank officers. However, this is not true today.

I have never heard a mother telling a girl, "Oh well, you are a girl. You cannot do math." Or I have never heard a teacher talking about gender differences in mathematics achievement.

In my school days, girls scored better in all classes than boys. The names of the top five scorers were listed on the blackboard in my classroom every month. When I was a student, two or three of my girl friends including myself were always listed among the top five in math classes.

My conviction is that number concepts come naturally to girls in South India. I have no research to support this statement. However, I can argue that the girls watch the mothers create the threshold design in the front yard or in the kitchen. These designs involve numbering, skip counting, symmetry and so on. Is it possible for me to say then that arithmetic or logic is part of a girl's life in India?

 

Mail Us up- truth is a pathless land - Home