Skip to main content
October - December 2023

Kolam: Weaving Memory Magic by Deepa Karthik

Kolam-making is a cherished tradition in my neighbourhood. Each morning, the sound of brooms brushing the front yards fills the air as they are meticulously swept and washed. Soon after, small bowls of white powder emerge, and with incredible skill, women create intricate and captivating patterns on the floor. During festive seasons, the designs become even more elaborate and captivating, featuring flowers, vines, motifs, and deities. On special occasions, the white powder is accompanied by red brick powder, adding to the visual impact. However, it is during festive seasons that the most elaborate and breath-taking designs are displayed. These patterns often feature intricate flowers, vines, motifs, and images of deities, a true visual delight that never fails to leave me amazed.

Kolam holds deep cultural and spiritual significance. They are believed to bring prosperity and ward off evils in our homes. But beyond their cultural importance, there is a fascinating scientific aspect to kolam art. Kolam, also known as rangolis, represent symbolic art forms prevalent in India and several other Asian countries. Derived from the Sanskrit word ‘rangavalli’ (meaning colorful vines), these intricate designs hold immense spiritual and cultural significance, becoming an indispensable part offestivals. In our culture, kolam are believed to ward off evil and bring prosperity and peace to homes. Particular designs chosen for prayer areas are thought to radiate positive energy. But beyond their apparent beauty, there is an underlying scientific aspect to kolamĀ­ making.

The key feature of traditional kolams is the presence of dots, typically 108 of them, connected by curved lines to form symmetric designs. Symmetry, from an artistic perspective, represents order, harmony, and tranquillity. This innate quality of symmetry is omnipresent in nature, from single-celled organisms to complex structures. The human brain is finely attuned to perceive and respond to symmetrical patterns. The captivating art form of kolam rooted in tradition and cultural significance, holds unexpected potential for individuals grappling with memory loss. Recent studies have unveiled a fascinating connection between kolam and memory, making it a promising ally in the battle against cognitive decline.

Drawing kolams is no simple task; it requires geometric balance and engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. The act of running the coarse powder through one’s fingers activates nerve centres in the brain. This ancient art finds mention in epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, where people used rangavallis to welcome their kings and express joy. It reflects the profound scientific knowledge possessed by our ancestors, made accessible to the masses through simple traditions and rituals. Crafting kolam engages the mind through intricate patterns, stimulating neural pathways and promoting cognitive benefits. This creative process exercises problemĀ­ solving skills, visual-spatial abilities, and memory recall, strengthening the brain’s resilience against memory loss.

Kolam enhances memory skills by challenging practitioners to memorize complex designs, colours, and sequences. As they delve deeper into this art form, their memory becomes intricately intertwined with the practice, fostering a symbiotic relationship. Beyond cognitive benefits, kolam provides respite from daily stressors, known contributors to dementia risk. Its rhythmic strokes and serene ambiance create a tranquil space, offering solace and reducing the burden of anxiety.

Kolam is not limited to individual expression; it fosters social connections. As people come together to create these ephemeral masterpieces, they engage in social interaction, cultivating a sense of belonging. Studies highlight the positive impact of social engagement on cognitive health, reinforcing the significance of kolam in memory retention. To maximize its potential, kolam should be viewed as part of a comprehensive approach to brain health, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, mental stimulation, and social connections. By delicately intertwining the threads of kolam, we unlock its remarkable ability to safeguard and fortify memories. This timeless art form captivates our minds, amplifies memory recall, alleviates stress, and forges meaningful connections. Although ongoing research explores the precise impact of kolam on memory loss, the transformative power of creative expression cannot be underestimated.

In a world where memories slip through time’s grasp, kolam emerges as a radiant beacon, reminding us of the power of creativity and connection. As we dance our fingers across the canvas of coloured flour, we awaken dormant memories, forge new neural pathways, and find solace in our shared heritage. Discover the enchantment of kolam, an ancient art form that intertwines creativity, memory, and connection. Let its mesmerizing patterns and vibrant colours ignite your imagination and awaken cherished memories. Unleash the magic within and embrace the transformative power of this timeless art.

Some Special Kolam Designs: