Creating a repository of videos and posts on social media through her project ‘Kolam Podu’, designer Bhargavii Mani has got hundreds of netizens hooked onto traditional kolam by simplifying it and throwing light on its health benefits.
Over 10 days, Bhargavii remembers her Instagram account being flooded with 1,500 new followers after she started the project, which now stands strong with over 7,600 followers. “I found kolam to be an interesting way of bringing people together and starting conversations. Many people were giving positive feedback. They wanted to contribute designs as even they felt that it was a tradition getting lost. I also realised during this process that I was no longer psychologically burnt out,” she shares. Kolam also served as a conversation-starter among her neighbours, Bhargavii says.
Kolam designs, which are drawn in front of homes in plain rice flour or sometimes filled with red brick powder, are not only pleasing to the eyes but come with several health benefits, she points out. “It is good for one’s spine to bend down as an exercise every morning. Besides that, drawing pullis (dots) requires tremendous focus. Even joining the dots or going around the dots for the design is like a puzzle — maintaining symmetry, ensuring each dot is covered by lines and each line crosses another only once. Hand-mind coordination is improved and the brain can get sharper by doing it on a daily basis. It is a free solution to take care of one’s mental health,” she elaborates.
Her research made her realise that there is no repository of kolam designs and that many people found them to be intimidating and complex, Bhargavii says. That prompted her to start a YouTube channel that demonstrates the intricate curves required to create a design. “I see dots as our problems and the way we join them is up to our creativity. After I started the project, I received many messages from women recreating the designs, and even men telling me that they’re practising them on paper before heading for meetings as a way of keeping their brain sharp,” she shares.
In her YouTube videos, the designer not only explains the process of creating different kolam designs, but alongside also discusses the writings of various Tamil poets, like Andal’s Thiruppavai, and tries to get to the meaning behind different Tamil traditions and festivals. “I want this to be an educational project. Soon, I also plan to make kolam videos discussing each of the 1,330 kurals (couplets) from Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural,” adds Bhargavii.