or Kolam as they say in Tamil, or Rangoli in Hindi.

My mom has and still am sure has a large collection of different kinds muggulu (kolams/rangolis) back home. Every year, as the festive season approached, she’d open her book up and brush up on them. Practicing on stolen sheets of notebook paper from our books. I remember her being very possessive about her collection. Not sharing much with anyone, and neither allowing us to flip the pages without her permission.

There were all kinds.

Dots circled by squiggles and dots connected by lines.

There were no dot ones too.

Then there were the even number of dots and the odd numbers. Some went all the way to one, while some stopped short at 3. Some had a pattern to them.

15, 13(2) 11, 9(2), 7, 5- she’d pencil the top of the page.

There was an order to all those squiggles that wound serpentine in and out and dodged the little islands of rice flour. Yes, there would be a once a month purchase of Kolamaavu or Muggupindi – a mixture of calcium and /or chalk. It was heavy in texture, and fell thickly across the wet earth. There was a knack of letting the flour flow smooth and even as one drew lines and curves in the wee hours. It was a special treat when my mother would allow me to try my hand at it. The smaller tinier lesser traffic doorways was given to me. To practice. I would.

It was a special joy to see the white powder fall ever so gently as my index finger and thumb would clasp a tiny bit and move within half an inch over the wet floor, leaving a white trail behind. The one that would form boundaries and create mazes for the ants. The ones that the ants would feed on eventually to make their way across.

Am sure there’s an interesting history to why this little art started and how it evolved. I should perhaps go read up on it.

In the meanwhile, I wanted to ask this. How many really serious muggu/kolam/rangoli folks are out there today? No, am not talking about competitions and filling the boundaries of these shapes with colors and flowers alone, but some serious pattern drawing? This day and age when nights and mornings have merged to one with busy schedules and the space that’s reserved for this artwork has been taken over by cycles parked outside, or the narrow alleys that have been created by apartments spilling over? The last time I was over, I saw little hurried dashes in place of beautiful intricate sparkling art. It was disappointing.

On special occasions such as Diwali, Navaratri, Ganesh Puja, or Varalakshmi Vratam day, or Ugadi, I try and do a small colorful muggu outside our front door. It’s with colored sidewalk chalk, not rice flour. Sidealk art at its best.

I use whatever colors I can salvage from the tub from munchkin’s corner in the garage. It feels good. It feels like a home when I have that spread outside. People who come home have always remarked (and some with an amused snicker) on how I can remember and continue to keep up a failing tradition, here outside India.

I shock folks occasionally and invariably get a kick out of it. It’s entertaining, correct? How else does one spice up a suburbian life, with three kids (I’d love to say a dog, but if I do, that would make me husband-less, so I refrain) doing the mundane soccer mom thing?

So my quick to pull out of the chalkbox, apart from drawing a padma:

a diwali 08
a diwali 08

is this squiggly one:


It’s 7-5-3-1 and it’s really very simple.

So you tell me, do you do an occasional Kolam/Muggu/rangoli outside your home? Special occasions? Do you personally know how to draw a couple? From memory? Is there favorite? Have you stopped doing it? Why?

Am gonna tag a few of you from various parts of the world to tell me about your Muggu/Rangoli/Kolam experience.

Sands, Keerthi, My3, ajcl, Maami, Sree , Mystic , Archana and anyone else who wants to do this. Would love to hear your thoughts. Add a picture if you can. Should be interesting? What do you think?

Now that I think about it, men can add in their 2 cents too. I know my dad enjoyed seeing my mom work herself up into a frenzy over getting it “perfect” – especially the one she;d do on rathasapthami (incidentally it was my birthday too) – the huge muggu, with a chariot and wheels and the flag that would fly “uptil the corner of the street, so I had to go pick your mom up on the scooter and bring her home” – Dad’s favorite, never tiring joke every year.

First published on Desicritics.

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32 replies on “muggu”
  1. says: Sangeetha

    You brought back some really fond memories from my childhood. I used to draw the muggu EVERYDAY in front of my home (in a village in Warangal dist.) for almost 3-4 years during my schooling days. Ever since we moved to Hyd, I do it only on Sankranti. And make a floral one on Diwali ๐Ÿ™‚

    But when I was a kid, I used to compete with my neighbour who was also my classmate :). Almost every day!

    Btw, the padmam one is my Mom’a fave. She always makes this as a side one during Sankranti. And the 7-1 is my lazy one ๐Ÿ˜› I always used to put it when I was feeling lazy ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. says: rads

      Warangal eh? I was born there!

      I never could do it regularly, but watched mom. She was one of those traditional ones who thought that a washed doorway and a bright fresh muggu was a sign of prosperity. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I know my cousins in AP used to take lotsa pride in it, especially during some months right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. says: Poonam

    This is a beautiful rangoli and glad to know that some of us keep up traditions. Just today me and my colleagues were discussing that we have not really learnt knitting and embroidering. Will the next generation women have these skills?

    But if one keeps up tradition like you, perhaps some of them might after all be passed to the next generation. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. says: rads

      You’re itching to chalk me down as a dinosaur aren’t you? :p

      Well, it’s just one of those things that I do on occasion. I was raised outside of my home state, so I learnt only half of what my mom could instill fighting the city’s culture and a convent education. Now, when I think back, I remember learning most by observation, not by direct coaching. With my kids growing up similarly, I feel this is just little parts of us that we can plant in their memories, they may or may not pick up to carry on, but at least it wouldn’t all be greek and latin to them.

      The next generation will know stuff that we don’t. Such is evolving life I guess… ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. says: M

    I make a kolam at the pooja place a few times a week and ones outside on festive occasions too…I know the usual daily ones and a few “dot” ones from years of drawing them everyday in India, the default festive kolam for Tam-brams is the “padi-kolam” so I know a few variants of that too…my kids were fascinated by this, and learnt some patterns, bought a couple of kolam books and now I’ve outsourced festival day kolams to them – son is still young enough to participate enthusiastically ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. says: rads

      Nice! I remember the padi kolam from my neighbors in Madras.
      It IS an art form isn’t it? I mean, they are ‘connecting teh dots’ and they do help in concentration, and logical thinking. Left side mirrors the right side, and the patterns they form.
      Frankly, I think there ought to be a study done! ๐Ÿ™‚

      This Navratri, daughter drew one out after I drew it for her on paper, by steps. She was mighty proud. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. says: Sree

    trip down the memory lane Rads… chesesa tag.. photolu vetiki pedataa.. loved your padmam muggu… bhale andamga untundi kada… naaku personalga melikala muggulu ishtam, chaala complicated, but simple yet amazing look vuntay.

    1. says: rads

      Chaala ๐Ÿ™‚

      Sankranti gobbemmalu gurunchi rayi? ๐Ÿ™‚

      I got all excited and wrote you a longish comment, on teh atrocities of “rangoli competition” here and the kinds that were called muggu!

  5. says: ajcl

    I come from a family of kolam aficionado’s who just needed an excuse to practice it.. somehow this streak never rubbed off on me.. my mom still does the early morning, washing the front yard and adorning it with kolam routine.. one of my most fav memories of back home (the smell of freshly washed earth,amma bending to make the kolam, suprabhatam and the smell of insence).. i can make quite a fool of myself with this art so never venture to doing it..thanks for the tag Rads..

    1. says: rads

      Sucha sweet tradition I think. A tradition that will remain in your memory and then your children’s distant and their own will have nothing to fall back on.

      Then some archeologist will dig this up in 500 years down the lane and the world will go “wow” then. gah!

  6. says: maami

    Oh, I find it charming at all times. Love to admire it.
    As usual, I’m not good at it.
    Why I am also a failure at drawing alpana, the Bengali kolam. Finito. Fail. Pussssssssssss vonly!

    1. says: rads

      ..and why? You are connecting the dots within people’s mouths, cavity 3 to molar 5 and so on eh? ๐Ÿ™‚

      Try remembering and post?

  7. says: Sangeetha

    Yeah, the spl months are around Sankranti and Deepawali ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hey, would like to write to you. Nothing serious, just generally. Want to write abt myself and know more about you (we share the birthplace ;)) Can you share your e-mail with me? You anyway know my e-mail id ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, pls to share your e-mail id if you don’t mind.

  8. says: M

    Oh my God!! this post brought back such wonderful memories. I loved making kolams and I used to be very good at it, I sharply remember the times when my Atthai Patti (Dad’s Aunt) who was a very old lady, used to feel so proud of me. Every single year when we went off for vacation to our village in Trichy, I used to compete with my neighbours. There was no prize, but just pride.

    Fast forward to present…I don’t really make kolam. This Diwali I will start the tradition back and let my daughter take over. Now reading this I feel I should pass on this Art to next generation.

    Lovely Kolam. Next time I will ask my Mom to get all my Kolam books, I had a good collection and I even have a binded book which I made by tearing out Kolam patterns from ‘Mangayar Malar’.

    1. says: rads

      haha, looks like I sent everyone on a trip down memory lane. Yes please, let’s revive this one. I am not for doing this day in and day out, but certain traditions and such pretty one such as this, we can afford to spend a few days in a year on them?

  9. says: Mrunalini

    Yay..I can make some too. During Sankranthi, I would pre decide the muggu, get the required colors and fill them in. I was not good with muggu. I preferred the chalk and thankfully we had a cement pavement at the entrance.
    I cant make the ultra complicated ones but the 21-1 with deepams was for diwali and 15-8 was for sankranti. When I am home, I still make the small 5-1, 7-1 ones. Maybe I have not been far away for too long to forget and I bet I wont forget it in the future ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. says: rads

      Okay, how about doing a full blown one for this sankranthi and posting a picture? ๐Ÿ™‚
      Heck, start with this weekend with the diyas? I shall too!

      1. says: Mrunalini

        I did the diya part but not the muggu. We live in a apartment with carpeted stairs. Else my neighbours would have been staring at one by now ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. says: Ms Taggart

    Arey waah.. enni rojulaindi nenu muggu vesi.. I used to have a huge collection of those chukkala muggulu and tippudu muggulu.. it feels like a gazillion years ago! ๐Ÿ™

    1. says: rads

      See, almost all of us have such wonderful memories of such art. No idee why there’s any reason we should let it go? Revive it girl, get the collection back ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. says: Rayna

    Mum never went in for anything except the most basic kolam, but my grandmother was an expert- she’d practice those elephant and horse ones on bits of paper all year, so she could unleash them during Navratri.
    I don’t do kolams regularly, but every festival, I try to make one outside the front door. Only, living in Bombay, it is rangolis I end up making, because I just love the coloured powder you get here.
    I remember only three kolam patterns (to be honest, they were the only three I ever learnt), but almost never make them any more. But during very boring meetings, I doodle them occasionally, to keep in touch!
    Will blog about kolams this week, and tag you on it for sure.

  12. says: aruna

    Thanks for the tippudu muggu for which I was searching in the net today .Today I had to decorate our parking area with muggus.One of them is yours.

  13. says: Apple

    Ehahahahaha…nenippude ee tag chesaaa ๐Ÿ˜€ Marchipoyaano, choosukoledo anukunnaaremo kadaa…ilaanti tags elaa vadulthaanu

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    My blog goes over a lot of the same topics as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other.
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