Created from rice flour, the art form known as kōlam is made using only the artist’s fingers, trickling the flour in abstract, typically-symmetrical geometric mandalas, often in front of houses. The art form, also known as hase, muggu, and rangoli, is mostly practiced by female Hindu family members.
The designs are created every day at sunrise, just after each house’s threshhold is washed. They are meant to be a visual prayer, walked over, rained on, and usually worn away by the end of the day. They bless all who pass over them, and are thought to bring prosperity to the house. Regular, everyday kōlams are made from just white flour, while the more brightly-colored versions are usually created to celebrate holidays and special events.
Although they are certainly beautiful and artistic, kōlams have a deeper meaning. They are made out of edible rice flour rather than ground stone or chalk to attract insects, birds, and other small creatures. They are meant to be a daily welcome to other beings, an effort at harmonious co-existence with nature. What a lovely idea!