I had a chat with talented Mrs. A. M. Rani Selvaraj. She is a Rangoli artist who is truly passionate about this beautiful Indian art.
She participated in this year’s Mylapore kolam festival conducted by Sundaram Finance and her kolam was selected as one among the best 15 creations.
Here is the winning entry.
This interview is going to be a visual treat for all of us.
One can spend hours looking at the beautiful, intricate Kolams on your Facebook Page. Have you been drawing Kolams from your childhood?
When we were kids we used to draw small kolams on the threshold of our homes. Schoolwork and other classes took up most of our time. So we didn’t have a lot of time to draw elaborate kolams. The magazines and even newspapers would publish kolam designs. We used to collect these to practice and to make our own kolam books.
I started drawing kolams regularly only after my daughter went to college.
How did you get interested in drawing kolam?
I have always been fascinated by kolams. About ten years ago I started bowsing the net when I had a little bit of free time. I used to go to the ikolam site and admire the designs there. After my daughter started college I had more time for myself. I started following some of the posters on ikolam regularly. A year or so later I started drawing my own designs and posting them. In the beginning they were small and fairly easy. Now I spend more time on drawing my kolams.
Do you post your kolams on the ikolam site?
Yes, I do. I post on ikolam as Ammu Chandhini. I’ve posted 1500 kolam designs in 7-8 years there. I started my Facebook Page only last year during the Marghazhi season. I interact with about two hundred friends who are also interested in kolams.
Do you draw your kolams in the early mornings? How long does it take you to draw one of your kolams?
In the month of Marghazhi (மார்கழி மாதம்), and during festive days, I keep to the tradition of drawing a kolam early in the morning. It takes me about one to 1-1/2 hours then. On other days, I design my kolams in the afternoon, between 3-4 pm. It is very quiet and peaceful in my place at that time of the day. It is perfect for me to design and draw my kolam then.
Do you follow pattern books or do you also create your own?
I get inspirations from traditional patterns, from suggestions that relatives and friends give. Now I modify familiar kolams. I also create my own. Of the nearly 2500 kolams I have drawn, at least a thousand are my own creations.
You have a huge fan following on Facebook. Do you get requests for rangoli patterns?
Yes, people write to me asking for puja room kolams and tulasi madam kolams. I get requests for video tutorials for many traditional kolams (for festive days) like Hridya Kamalam. I’ve posted two videos on my page. I do this on my own so it is difficult to juggle the video camera as I draw the strokes.
How has kolam evolved over the years?
The younger generation have a lot of time constraints, because of work hours and even studies. With more and more people living in flats, space is also reduced. So they prefer the kolam stickers or draw smaller kolams. In fact many yung people contact me on my Facebook Page for new kolam designs. They want smaller designs to draw in their prayer room or in the landing. It is not that people are less interested in kolams, it is more that their needs have changed. So there is a greater interest for smaller kolam designs.
What kind of kolams do you draw and like the most?
I like to draw chikku (knot) kolams. I have developed a lot of interest in this and have posted many designs on my Facebook Page. I like to start with a basic chikku kolam pattern on paper and try to create something new out of it when I transfer the pattern to the ground. I enjoy drawing these.
Do you use traditional kola maavu or rice flour too? Do you use any other material?
For the white kolams I use kola maavu. For the colored powder I get ready to use colours from Mumbai. The texture of this is different from rangoli powder. I get the powder from a shop near Parry’s corner-I like these flours because they are evenly spreadable.
Do you interact with people from around the world because of the kolams you post on your Facebook Page?
Yes, I get many comments from people all over the world. I belong to five or six mandala groups on Facebook. There are a lot of foreigners in those groups and they are very curious about the traditions and reasons behind our kolams.
Do you have any interesting stories behind any of the kolams?
Well, something came up recently. After seeing the kolams on my Facebook Page, someone expressed an interest in showcasing my designs in one of the museums. Nothing is finalized but there is some interest in having me over to do an interview and a live demonstration. I don’t know more but it was very nice to hear that.
Thank you Rani for taking the time to talk to us in spite of your busy schedule. Happy Pongal!
Now it is time for the visual treat. I have added a few pictures from her Facebook page. I did not know which picture to choose and which picture to omit. If this small collection blows your mind, you should rush to her facebook page now. Like it, follow it and don’t forget to tell her how beautiful her rangolis are.