Kolattam (கோலாட்டம்) is a folk dance form performed with a pair of colourful sticks. This art form is usually performed by girls and women for a fortnight following Diwali festival, which culminates in a grand finale called ‘kolatta Jothrai’ (கோலாட்ட ஜோத்ரை). During this festival a bull doll called ‘Pasava’ (பசவா) is made out of clay and carried from the river bank to a designated location by a boy especially selected from the community for this purpose. In a festival dominated by girls and women, this one boy gets prominence for carrying ‘Pasava’ and he is called ‘Pasavan’ (பசவன்). The girls pray to God for timely monsoon, good harvest and prosperity.
Every morning, after having their bath in the river, the girls visit the place where ‘Pasava’ is kept. After offering food to the ‘Pasava’, they eat their breakfast. In the evenings, they visit each house and perform ‘kolattam’ for the benefit of the household members, who in turn offer money and gifts to them. With the money thus collected, the girls buy oil, turmeric, vermilion, flowers and bangles, which get distributed equally among the girls.
|Practise work - Girl performing kolaatam - Acrylic on canvas
On the final day called ‘kolatta Jothrai’, girls have bath in the river, wear new cloths and perform pooja to ‘Pasava’, which is then carried by ‘Pasavan’ in a procession and immersed in the river. In the evening, women and girls perform to traditional songs, moving in rhythmic steps to form various patterns such as snake, lotus etc. It is a treat to watch the synchrony of movements observed by all performers, from little girls to grandmothers. A complex form of kolattam is performed with ropes extending from the sticks tied to a central pole and the performers make exquisite patterns with the ropes by moving rhythmically in mathematical precision. Kolattam performance continues till midnight and all the children enjoy the festival with gay abandon.
|Girls and women performing kolattam - Oil on Canvas - 20" x 30"
In this painting, I have tried to bring out the mood of colourful ‘kolatta jothrai’. Girls and women are dressed in bright silk outfits and decked with elegant jewellery. Hair is often decorated with flowers such as jasmine (மல்லிகை), rose (ரோஜா), bachelor’s button (வாடாமல்லி), Arabian jasmine (முல்லை), fire cracker flower (கனகாம்பரம்) and screw pine (தாழம்பூ), to name a few. Girls usually plait their hair and have it decorated with flowers in intricate designs! This work executed using oil paint on canvas is developed from my childhood memory. I have tried to show the colourful clothes, exquisite jewellery and elaborate hair decoration.
This festival teaches the children about the seasons/climate, effect of monsoon on the harvest, and importance of livestock through traditional songs sung while performing kolattam. In addition, the children learn to share, work as a team and manage public fund. After all, our ancestors have designed traditions and festivals with great insights!
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