. Exploring the ritual art of kolam/understanding kolam in context.
. Developing ideas in visual arts and writing.
. Designing and creating patterns to reflect the local environment.
. Pairing works of fiction and nonfiction on same topic.
Background information for teachers
Students will read the short story, “Meenakshi’s
Magic Hands” by Santhini Govindan and view
a slide show of photo images interspersed with the text to learn of
the art form of Kolam. Read and reflect upon a nonfiction
essay, Kolam: A Living Art of South India; and participate in a hands-on
literature extension arts activity, Working with Kolam Patterns.
Reading activities for nonfiction short story
essay/ notetaking /reflective writing
extension art activity
Studio Art Project
/ Canvas floor cloths
Prior to Reading/ Vocabulary Building Activity Many students may have
very limited background experiences with the culture of South India.
Use a word sorts activity to build background knowledge and create
an understanding of vocabulary directly related to the text before
reading “Meenakshi’s Magic Hands”.
Students will discuss new vocabulary to identify the meaning and properties
of each word and then "sort"the list into collections of
words with similar features. This "sorting" process links
students' prior knowledge to the basic vocabulary of a reading selection
and motivates the learning of new concepts.
Steps to a Word Sort:
1. Create sets of index cards individually listing the following words
from “Meenakshi’s Magic Hands”: Chennai, melodious,
saree, kumkum, turmoil, idlis, elephants, sambhar, mangoes, stars,
peacocks, geometric shapes, visualized, Pongal, threshold, Diwali,
Goddess Mahalaxmi, complicated, Hindu. Pre-teach the meanings of unfamiliar
2. Divide the class into small groups of 4 or 5 students and distribute
a set of index cards to each group.
3. Instruct the student teams to look over the words and suggest possible
categories for organizing the words, as they will "sort"
the list into collections of words with similar features. (proper
nouns, adjectives, things you would see in a zoo, words they have
never seen before, things you eat, places, etc.)
4. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for the student teams to create categories
based how the words are related and work together discussing and sorting
the words into groups. They may need to "predict" meanings
for the unfamiliar words. Instruct students to be prepared explain
why they choose to group words together.
5. Tell students that all of the words are found in the story they
are going to read, "Meenakshi’s Magic Hands". Based
on the vocabulary presented, have them predict what they think the
story will be about. Have each group generate a gist statement that
depicts a possible scenario that that will occur in the story.
6. Conduct a class discussion with each group presenting their word
list for one of the categories. Require the students to defend their
sorting of terms by asking about the common features of the categories
and how each specific word meets these criteria. Ask each group to
identify the words that were unfamiliar. Have each group share their
prediction of what they think the story will be about.
following vocabulary/concepts from “Meenakshi’s Magic
Chennai (formerly known as Madras) is the fourth largest
city in India and the capital of Tamil Nadu. Locate on map of India.
saree (also sari) woman’s clothing of unstitched
draped cloth worn throughout India. How
to wear a sari
kumkum a red powder (tumeric) worn on the forehead
and hair part as a symbol of marital status.
idlis a type of steamed rice flour cakes and sambhar
a lentil curry sauce. Popular in South India as a snack or a meal.
For photograph & recipe see http://www.cuisinecuisine.com/IdliSambhar.htm
Pongal a three day festival celebrated in South India
during which thanks is given for the rice and sugarcane harvest and
the earth it is grown in, the oxen who assist the farmers in growing
the crop, and the sun which gives life to the rice.
The name pongal means “boiling over” and also refers to
a special sweet milk and rice porridge eaten at the festival. While
cooking, the pongal is allowed to boil over and spill out of the pot.
Deepavali (also Diwali or Divali) Festival of Lights,
one of the most popular festivals for Hindus lasting five days. See
The Story of Diwali at http://www.pitara.com/magazine/features/115.htm
Goddess Mahalaxmi (Also Lakshmi) Goddess of Wealth
and Good Fortune. During Diwali Hindus welcome her into their homes
in hopes that she brings happiness and wealth. Year round, the drawing
of beautiful kolam patterns in doorways serve as an invite for Lakshmi.
Hinduism is the world's
third-largest religion, after Christianity and Islam
Today there are about
650 million Hindus worldwide.
The majority of Hindus
live in India, where the religion was born.
One in every seven
people in the world is a Hindu living in India.
There are also significant
Hindu populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan, and smaller
groups in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Fiji, Africa, Europe, Canada, and
the United States.
of a million Hindus live and work in the United States. While Hindus
in each region have altered their religion to suit the needs of the
surrounding culture, all Hindus share a common set of traditions.
Hinduism was not founded
by one individual. Rather, it is a fusion of many religious beliefs
and philosophical schools. Accordingly, Hinduism is said to be a religion
of a million and one gods.
Facts About Hinduism from Smithsonian Institution's Educational website:
Puja Guide for Educators
Background for students:
Display map of India. Explain to students that they will be learning
about the art of kolam, an art form practiced by Hindu woman throughout
India, but is known by different names in different areas: 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.
Display photograph images of kolam and kolam making that accompany
Additional images may be found at http://www.kamat.org/picSearch.asp?search=rangoli&PageNo=2
Display photographs of women creating kolam. In their sketch/writing
journals, have students respond in a 5-minute QuickWrite by describing
their first impressions of what they are seeing, noting specific details
and generating questions raised by the photos.
Share responses to the artwork through discussion. Record questions
raised by the photos, such as, how/why the artwork was being made.
Students will read the short story, “Meenakshi’s
Magic Hands” by Santhini Govindan and view the slide
show of photo images interspersed with the text to learn of the art
form of kolam.
Before Reading: Invite students to share examples of
a time an older relative or family friend taught them a new skill. Point
out that in the story a granddaughter learns kolam, the art form in
the images they have just viewed. Review the questions students raised
while viewing the photos, such as, how/why the artwork was being made.
During Reading: Read or have
student volunteers read “Meenakshi’s Magic Hands”
aloud. As the story is read, view slide show of photo images as indicated
by * . Point out that all of the photographs were taken by an American
teacher traveling in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu in the
summer of 2003. Although not intended to depict the actual events
and characters in the story, these unposed photographs can help them
visualise the actions in the story.
After Reading: After the first reading of the story,
hand out copies of story and have students reread, individually or
in pairs, highlighting the text or notetaking each time one of the
questions about kolam is answered or they learn something new about
kolam. Review what was learned about kolam from the story.
Follow up by having students read Kolam: A Living Art of South
India to learn more about the purposes of kolam in daily and
ceremonial life, the role of woman artists, the ways in which kolam
patterns are learned, sources of ideas for visual designs, the variety
of materials used, and the various processes for creating kolam.
Journal Response: What was confirmed or added to
your initial impressions about kolam? What have you learned about
kolam? What are examples of other art forms that are created at special
times of year or for special occasions. Can you name other examples
of ephemeral (lasting a short time) art?
Extension: Discuss and display photos of kolam along with other examples
of artwork created which may not last a long time, such as sand paintings,
sidewalk chalk drawings, ice sculptures, vegetable sculptures, cake
decorating, face painting, mehendhi , etc.
to other themes: South Indian Festivals; Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
Students will be evaluated based on completion of journal, participation
in class discussion, written responses, and participation in activities.
Additional readings for teachers
Painted Prayers: Women’s Art in Village India. Photos
and text by Stephen Huyler Ganeri, Anita. Hindu Festivals throughout
the Year. North Mankato, MN: Smart Apple Media, 2003.
Introduces the main religious festivals of Hinduism, telling the
story behind each festival, describing how it is celebrated around
the world, and providing instructions for relate activities.
Computer generated symmetrical kolam patterns
Have students perform the opening scene or read together as Readers
Rice Boy a play by Sunil
In front of a house in India, sixteen-year-old Tina learns the
ancient art of kolam, the creation of elaborate patterns with
rice powder, from her great-grandmother, in preparation for her
marriage to a man she has never met. Meanwhile, in front of a
house in Canada, Tina’s cousin, Tommy, sits in a tree, trying
to make sense of his heritage.
Other grade levels: This series of lessons can
be adapted for use with upper elementary and high school classrooms.
discipline areas: foreign cultures; global education; multicultural
arts; mathematics, perform transformations on two-dimensional figures
to create kolam patterns and describe and analyze the effects of
the transformations on the figures.
Special needs students: Provide support as needed
Connections to Standards:
A.8.1 Use effective reading strategies to achieve their purposes
A.8.3 Read and discuss literary and nonliterary texts in order to
understand human experience.
A.8.4 Read to acquire information.
B.8.1 Create or produce writing to communicate with different audiences
for a variety of purposes.
C.8.3 Participate effectively in discussion.
D.8.1 Develop their vocabulary and ability to use words, phrases,
idioms, and various grammatical structures as a means of improving
E.8.3 Describe the ways in which local, regional, and ethnic cultures
may influence the everyday lives of people.
E.8.10 Explain how language, art, music, beliefs, and other components
of culture can further global understanding or cause misunderstanding.
E.8.14 Select examples of artistic expressions from several different
cultures for the purpose of comparing and contrasting the beliefs
basic concepts in art, such as “form follows function,”
“destruction of the box,” “less is more,”
balance, symmetry, integrity, authenticity, and originality
E.8.5 Use the visual
arts to express ideas that can't be expressed by words alone
G.8.1 Know that
visual images are important tools for thinking and communicating
that art reflects the time and place in which it was created
how creating or looking at art brings out feelings
I.8.7 Work independently
and collaboratively to produce ideas and works of art
J.8.3 Learn ways
different cultures think about art
K.8.1 Connect their
knowledge and skills in art to other areas, such as the humanities,
sciences, social studies, and technology
the ability to reflect and talk about works of art
Magic Hands” is a work of fiction, many women in South India
create kolam and teach this art form to their daughters, who in turn
teach their daughters. To enhance the retelling of this story, display
the photograph slide show
provided at points indicated by *.
Point out that the photos, taken by an American
teacher traveling in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu in the summer
of 2003, are not intended to depict the actual events and characters
in the story, but to help them visualize the actions in the story.
A Living Art of South India
by Sandra L. Kowalczyk
Throughout India women create intricate designs on the
ground in front of their homes by drizzling rice flour
or rice paste through their fingertips. Known rangoli
in the western Indian states of Mahrashtra, Gujarat, Rajastan,
by other names in different parts of India, it is called
kolam in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka,
Kolam is considered an important form of artistic expression for
woman. Young girls learn to create kolam from their mothers, grandmothers,
and aunts. Early mornings and evenings you may spot a woman, using
a broom made from bundles of plant fibers, to sweep clean the area
directly in front of her home. Using her hand, she sprinkles water
from a vessal until the whole area is throughly dampened. The dampness
helps the design stay in place. From a small container holding dry,
coarse ground rice flour, she deftly uses her thumb and forefinger
to control a steady flow of flour as she plots out a pattern.
Kolams are created throughout the year to make the entrances to homes
and businesses more beautiful and serve as “welcome mats”
to visitors. A kolam is a symbol to welcome Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess
of Wealth, into peoples' homes. Woman "draw" kolams throughout
the year, making special designs on days of festivals, such as Pongol
and Diwali, and to mark special occasions, such as marriages, and
temple chariot processions. Consistent with Hindu tradition of being
kind to all gods’ creatures, the beautiful patterns created
with rice flour also provide nourishment to ants and other insects,
birds, and rodents. Kolam a is an example of an ephemeral art, meaning
it's not meant to last a long time, but is worn away by the motion
of feet passing over it.
There are literally hundreds of traditional kolam designs, each with
unique features. A "pulli" style kolam begins with a grid
of dots flour dots or "pullis" on the ground in a grid formation.
A single uninterupted intertwining line is "drawn" that
curves around the dots and creates intricate designs. Lines should
be continual with no gaps left for evil spirits to enter. Kolam is
a mathematical type of art with fixed rules that result in intriguing
patterns using line, dots, circles, squares, triangles. Other types
of kolam are drawn freehand with nature often serving as inspirations
for designs: peacocks; swans; leaves, trees, flowers, such as the
multipetalled lotus; fruits, such as mangoes, conch shells, and so
on. In addition to white rice flour and rice paste, a variety of materials
can be used to create multicolored kolams, such as, ground marble
or quartz, colored powders or chalks, colored sand, brightly colored
spices, leaves, and flowers.
Today you can find design books to help you create designs. Metal
tins with pre-punched holes can be bought at the marketplace to use
as templates. Hollow tubes with holes drilled through them in, when
filled with rice flour or powdered chalk can be rolled to create intricate
repeated border patterns. Busy woman might buy kolam stickers to place
in doorways or paint a permanent kolam design in doorway. Fortunately
there remain woman in villages and cities throughout South India who
continue the kolam tradition, as it was taught by their mothers and
grandmothers, creating ephemeral art anew each day.
questions / Suggestions for further research:
What are the purposes of kolam in daily and ceremonial
Describe the role of woman artists?
How are kolam patterns learned?
What are the sources of ideas for kolam designs.
How does a particular design travel from one area
What materials are used to make kolam?
Describe the various processes for creating kolam.
What symbols can you identify that have special meaning?
Can you name other examples of ephemeral (lasting
a short time) art? (snowmen and woman, sand paintings,
sidewalk chalk drawings, ice sculptures, vegetable
sculptures, cake decorating, face painting, mehendhi,
Learn more about kolam as practised in other areas
of India and known 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
with Kolam Patterns
- Begin by drawing
one dot which will be row one. Below
that form row two by drawing three dots with the center
dot directly below the dot in row one. For row three,
draw two dots each one below the spaces of the dots
you made in row two. Row four is made by repeating
row two. (figure 1) Now draw one continuous line by
starting at the top and following the direction of
the arrows to make your pattern. (figure 2)
Here are other designs you can try (figures 3 and
4) Provide preprinted grids and allow students to
experiment with reproducing and creating their own
Experiment with freehand patterns, materials, and
colors. Try creating a metal template that you can
use and reuse. After creating a pattern on paper,
tape it to the bottom of an disposable aluminum pie
tin. Use a large needle to punch a series of holes
along the lines of your design. Use a misting spray
bottle to dampen a flat surface outdoors or on a piece
of cardboard indoors. Place tin on surface and fill
with a thin layer flour or white or colored chalk.
(Rubbing chalk against sand paper creates a powder)
Gently lift aluminum pan and place to side ans repeat.
Add more flour/chalk powder as needed. Voila! An instant
Now it's time
to practice free hand. Use rice flour or substitute
other types of flour, ground corn meal, or ground
up chalk Before drawing a kolam, the ground needs
to be swept clean of sand, pebbles or other debris.
Next, sprinkle the ground with water so the pattern
stays in place. If practicing indoors, spread out
cardboard on surface of floor. Use a spray bottle
to cover surface with mist of water. Take small amounts
of flour in your hand and slowly drizzle between your
thumb and index finger as you create your design.
The design should be continuous unbroken lines when
completed. If you make a “mistake”, simply
incorporate it into your pattern, as there is no one
right way to create a kolam. Keep practicing until
your designs please you.