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.


Faces of Nanganallur 1

Mr. Janakiraman puja articles seller

Meet Mr Janakiraman, a Brahmin who ekes out his livelihood selling puja articles from a stand outside a temple. Though he looks famished he was full of cheer when we approached to photograph him.

From The Chennai Photowalk #145 Nanganallur

Sony A6400 Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN

f/2.8, SS 1/200 ISO 500

Spot the Shopkeeper

Cluttered shop

This kiosk selling pooja articles and religious trinkets was so cluttered I could hardly see the shopkeeper.

Near Anjaneya temple, Nanganallur.

Fromn The Chennai Photowalk #145, Nanganallur

Sony A6400 with Sony E 18-135 mm F 3.5-5.6 OSS

Wayside stores

Luz corner

The footpath in Luz corner is chock-a-block with stalls selling all kinds of goods. Here is one.

Clever Marketing Strategy?

Women’s garments

A store selling only bottom wear for women. They have a chain of outlets and seem to be quite popular. A focussed market strategy that has worked.

Shot on Samsung Galaxy Note 9

One and Only

A store front in Anna Nagar announcing a sale.

Value Adders 3

At Pondy Bazaar

Next in the series on last mile in the supply chain.

A migrant vendor selling 3-D pictures in Pondy bazaar a couple of months ago. Wonder where he is now!

Men and the Unmentionables

Men in a ladies lingerie shop
Men in a ladies lingerie shop

Men attenders in a ladies lingerie shop in Pondy Bazaar. Sunday morning.

Look the Other Way

Fashion showrooms in Pondy Bazaar
Fashion showrooms in Pondy Bazaar

“Look the Other Way”, the mother seems to be telling the son as they pass the showrooms and posters of Pondy Bazaar, now converted into a Pedestrial plaza under the Chennai Smart City project.

Old Stationer

An old stationery shop and its owner in Pondy Bazaar
An old stationery shop and its owner in Pondy Bazaar

Meet Mr.Sukumar, the 69-year owner of G.D.Sekar & Co. Stationers on Pondy Bazaar. The shop was started over 60 years ago by his father for selling paints. A few years ago, the paint section was closed and Sukumar is happy with his stationery business.

He also volunteered the information that he was interested in photography which he no longer practices. His passion now is travelling. He has recovered most parts of India and neighbouring countries. He uses the services of a T’Nagar based travel agent.

From The Chennai Photowalk Retrowalk #69