The Journey of the Coloured Kola Maavu

Mylapore Festival Kolam Rangoli Competition

The kolam with white ‘kola maavu’ is a common and welcome sign in front of most Tamil Nadu homes. Come Marghazhi (Dec-Jan) and Pongal the kolam takes many hues with many coloured powders much like the Rangoli of North India. I have often wondered where the colour powder comes from. My guess was somewhere in North India or even China.

On a recent trip to Tiruvannamalai I discovered the source of these coloured powders.

In a village on the highway near Tindivanam the roadside is lined with several people selling sack full of coloured powder. My curiosity was piqued by the concentration of single product around a village.  What was the unique strength?  On my return journey the driver parked at this village for me to explore.

There were several sellers – primarily old women and young girls. Some men too. My question to them was why is there such a concentration here? What is their speciality? Is it some raw material available only here or is some special skill or formula handed down? The women were not forthcoming with the answers, either because of their limited knowledge or my limited communication skills or their reluctance to share with a stranger.

The little information I got was scanty and sometimes conflicting.

“The material comes from Salem”

“The sand here is good for this”

“We get materials from many places”

“Special skills of our people”

I also spied a 25-kg sack labelled “Coated Ground Calcium Carbonate. Made in Viet Nam”

There were also some domestic grinders to grind the base (sand?) and mix the colours. The ground material was being spread on a mat to cool or dry.

They sell the powder @ Rs 20 per measure (padi?). “In the city, it sells for Rs 50”, added my driver and another customer.

The activity is confined to the weeks preceding Pongal. At other times the families go back to ‘iron business” which could mean trading in iron vessels or metal scrap according to my “interpreter”.

In any case, I came away with respect for this resilient and industrious community and will remember them whenever I see a coloured kolam or Rangoli as above.

Happy Pongal greetings in advance.

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Idle Viewer or Active Stakeholder?

Rice Mandi on Mada Street

A rice retailer views the Kolam competition and a balloon seller outside his shop. His ‘Mani Mandi’ seems to be modern and money savvy. He accepts all credit cards and also uses other payment gateways.

At first, I thought he was an idle observer waiting for the event to end, but a small board in Tamizh announcing ‘Kolam Powder sold here’ made him an active supply chain member in the Kolam event and beyond.

Which is the Main Entrance?

Eastern Entrance to Kapali Temple

Have you thought about this? The ‘main’ entrance through the Eastern Rajagopuram is not the ‘front’ entrance to Kapali temple? It is actually the back entrance!

The Lord faces West and the Dwajastambahm is also on the West. So the entrance from the West facing the tank is the front of the temple. The Eastern Gopuram is tall and there is Ganapathy at that entrance. This makes us assume that this is the front.

This was highlighted by Dr Chitra Madhavan in her talk about the 3 temples of Mylapore on Sunday, 8th January as part of the Mylapore Festival 2023.

This is something which we see but never think of.

Western Entrance

Kolam Competition

Soaking in the local culture

The Mylapore Festival returned after a gap of 2 years. Again the Kolam contest was the highlight. As expected, it was a visual delight and naturally a favourite with the photographers. As usual, there was a sprinkling of foreign tourists. They not only witnessed but also took part in and had some fun as seen in the picture. In effect, they soaked in the local culture.

From the Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival.

ELCOT SEZ

We went to the Special Economic Zone of ELCOT in Sholinganllur for birding.


This architectural feature of the pathway shelter also caught our attention.

Soan Papdi Seller

Soan Papdi seller from Maharashtra

Happy New Year to all my followers and readers. May 2023 bring you a lot of joy and peace of mind.

This is my 1137th post on this blog. Looking forward to your continued support.

Meet Mr Salim Khan, from the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. He sells Soan Papdi near the Marina Lighthouse. So, you thought the inward migration is only from states like Odissa, Bihar and Bengal, not to mention Bangla Desh? People migrate wherever they find that their efforts and skills are required.

Ashraf Vegetarian Brinji

Aslam at Ashraf Brinji stall

This is Aslam who was minding the Ashraf Vegetarian Brinji stall in Villivakkam.

I do not know the difference between Biriyani and Brinji. Uncle google tells me that Brinji is similar to Biriyani and its forerunner at least in the South.

I am told Muslims make the best non-vegetarian biriyanis. So it was surprising to note that this stall manned by Muslins was highlighting their vegetarian dish. Maybe a strategy of specialisation or penetration of a niche. Or does it have anything to do with the profile of the neighbourhood? Not being a foodie, I was interested only in the marketing strategy behind this young man’s business.

Incidentally, in a recent article Economic Times reported that Biriyani continues to be the most popular dish ordered on food delivery apps in the last 3 years running. Swiggy, for example, receives an average of 2.3 orders for Biriyani every second.

From the Chennai Photowalk #231 Villivakkam

In the Vegetable Market

Vegetable vendor

From the Chennai Photowalk #231

At the vegetable market, Villivakkam. The area was originally called Vilvaaranyam – the grove of volva trees.

The vegetable market was built during the British period and continues to function even today. Besides vegetables, there are also fish stalls in an annexe.

What do you see in the above picture?

I see…

A woman and 2 macho figures.

A lady vendor and 2 male customers.

Bright colours

Vegetable for the customer. Money for the seller as seen the seller eyeing the Mahalakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth- on the bag

Rural Setting

This typical rural scene is not very from the city. Nemam village – A suburb about 45 minutes drive from the city.

From The Chennai Photowalk

Temple Umbrella

Ceremonial parasol

Kovil kudai (கோவில் குடை) is a ceremonial umbrella or parasol and is one of the ‘aacharas’ or service offered to the deity in certain Hindu temples. It is made of a particular type of silk cloth. The colour of the umbrella for the Perumal temple is different from that of other temples. Ceremonial parasol making is an ancient art confined to certain Saurashtrian families in Chindathiripet.

The above scene is from the Manavala Maamunigal utsavam at The Parthasarathy Temple, Triplicane. The procession had 18 umbrellas representing the 18 works of the Saint-Scholar.

The annual procession of Tirupathi Kodai is also famous in Chennai. Every year, devotees from Chennai send 11 ceremonial umbrellas to Tirupati Sri Balaji. These are taken in a procession with a lot of devotion around areas in Chennai and Andhra before presenting to the temple at Tirupathi. These ‘ Thirupathi Kudais’ are treated with great reverence by devotees along the whole route.