The art of creating very large pictures on floor with coloured powders which is known as ‘Kalamezhuthu’ have been in vogue for ages as a ritual art form. It is typically Indian as it is a harmonic blend of Arian, Dravidian and Tribal traditions. As an art form it has found a significant place among our rich spectrum of fine arts. In most other parts of India, this art exists as a domestic routine of Hindus, who consider it as auspicious to draw certain patterns at the door step and courtyard to welcome a Deity into the house. It is called by names like Rangoli, Kolam, etc.
Kalamezhuthu is a unique form of this art found only in Kerala. Here it is essentially a temple art. The patterns to be drawn and the colours chosen are traditionally stipulated, and the tradition is strictly adhered to. Kalampattu is a kind of song sung by persons belonging to different castes which are lower down in the caste hierarchy. Kaniyan draws the Kalam of Gandharva, and Pulluva that of Serpents. The Kurup who sings Kalampattu uses a percussion instrument called Nanthuni, with cymbal (Kuzhithaalam) as accompaniment.
Painting the image of the Goddess, using herbal and grain powders of different kind is a consummate art. The dhulisilpam (the powder made image) attains supreme perfection by meticulous care in furnishing all its subtle details. The Kalam (floral drawing) is a unique drawing which is also called as powder drawing. The artist uses the floor as his canvas. Kalamezhuthu pattu (Kalam Pattu) is performed as part of the rituals to worship and propitiate Gods like Bhadhrakaali, Ayyappan, Vettakkorumakan, Serpant God etc. This ritualistic art is a common feature of temples as well as noble households. Functions like Thalappoli, Kuruthi and Pongilidi are done related with Kalampattu.
The coloured powders used for the Kalam are prepared from natural products only. The pigments are extracted from plants – rice flour (white), charcoal powder (black), turmeric powder (yellow), powdered green leaves (green), and a mixture of turmeric powder and lime (red). It often takes several hours to finish a Kalam drawing with appealing perfection. Decorations like a canopy of palm fronds, garlands of red hibiscus flowers and thulasi or Ocimum leaves are hung above the Kalam.
The figures drawn usually have an expression of anger, and other emotions. Kalamezhuthu artists are generally members of communities like the Kurups, Theyyampadi Nambiars, Theeyadi Nambiars and Theeyadi Unnis. The Kalams drawn by these people differ in certain characteristics. In Kallatt style of drawing there are 18 ‘Roopakkalams’ for ‘Shaivites’, 11 Kalam for ‘Upadevas’, one round Kalam called ‘Pathmakkalam’ for ‘Thiruvilayanattu Bhagavathy’ and 29 different types ‘Nagakkalams’.
Kalamezhuthupattu is a traditional performing art in Kerala, India. It is performed as a vazhipad (offering). Kallatt kurup, a traditional community, is in charge of that function. The Kalampattu is associated with some ritualistic dance performances. This offering is performed for the blessings of Gods like Bhadhrakali, Ayyappan, Vettakkorumakan, Serpent God, etc.
After Koorayidal and Uchappattu, Kurup does the Kalamezhuthu (drawn on the floor using five colours). Marar (who plays drums) does the Sandyavela after deeparadhana. Keli, thayampaka, kushalpattu, etc are done according to the budget of the offerer. When the Kalam is ready, the Deity and the Komaram will be welcomed to the Kalam as a procession with a song by Kurup called Mullakkan pattu. Here also according to the budget elephant, melam, and other decorative items can be added to the procession. The Velichappad (Komaram) does the ritual dance known as Eedum koorum chavittu and the Kalapradakshinam (rounding the Kalam with different steps and rhythms). After the completion of Kalapradakshinam, the Brahmin priest is assigned the privilege of doing the Kalam pooja of the image before the onset of the Kalampattu. After that Kurup performs Thiriuzichil, the Komaram performs Kalathylattam, Nalikerameru (breaking of coconut as offering), and Kalam maykkal (Kalasam - valedictory function – closing the function). After that kurup removes the koora (Koora valikkal).
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Kalamezhuthu is an important art which has to be well focussed. We will feel the presence of aliveness in the Kalam, which is drawn without any gadgets. The Kurup who sing songs also has the skill to draw the Kalam. The usage of colour powder by the Kurup is really a cause of astonishment to everyone. Kurup can also be treated as the Father of Kerala painting form. It will not be a flattery, but just a matter of facts. Since he didn't use any gadgets or tools, this shows that this art is an ancient one and we can see the relation with Mural paintings. In Kathakali also we can seen too much similarities of the colours and crown in Kalamezhuthu. When compared with the others Kalams like, Kolam, Pathmakkalam (Brahmins’), Pana (Nair), etc, the Kalam with an Image (structure) of Deity is started by the Kurup.
Since Kalampattu is accociated with a Deity, there is no modernization in this art and it keeps this form without any changes from its original version. Like many art forms, this one depends fully upon kurup and kavu. So if they are not continuing their rituals, this art form also will go into the dark and will be lost forever like many other art forms.
1. Kallattukurruppanmarude Kalamezhuthu pattu - by Dr. Babu mundekadu - DC books july 2002
2. Kali-Worship in Kerala - by Dr.Chelanat Achyutha menon - University of Madras 1943
3. Puraavasthu gaveshnam - V.R Parameswaran Pilla