A Lively Community Endeavor
Lively was founded as a boutique whose profits would go towards village women's development in 2000 by German Aurovilian Karin. She's been working with Auroville Village Action since she joined Auroville in January 1998. Her aim has always been to provide a bridge between Auroville and the bioregion as well as connecting people from all over the world to work together in a harmonious way.
Lively Boutique specializes in displaying a wide variety of crafts from local artisans which do not appear in other Auroville boutiques, as well as ready-made clothing and hand-made jewellery and craft items from their own workshop. The boutique in cooperation with the Kolam Project promotes and sells the products that are designed and created by the women that take part in the project. It is also home for the tailoring section of the Auroville Free Store, a service for Aurovilians.
Kolam Project was started for the benefit of village women to support their learning skills to sustain themselves and their families. It was a Sanjeevi Nagar village girl who took personal interest in one of the traditional treasures of the Tamil culture: Kolam -- the sacred designs Tamil housewives trace in front of their homes every morning. Having researched into the history and meaning of kolams, she decided to apply this indigenous skill to help the local village women to lift their life economically. She recognized that the spiritual mandala can be “globalised” so its message of beauty, harmony and humility can reach all levels of people in this world.
As a result of this vision the Kolam Project was conceived and currently there are over seven women designing, tailoring and embroidering the Kolam designs on wall hangings, bags, bed sheets, purses, pillow covers, clothing and many other products. Even a Tarot deck using kolams has been produced. The products range from ready-made to custom designs requested by the customers. And, not only has her vision of keeping the tradition alive locally been successful, she is now displaying the beautiful and functional pieces in exhibitions and shops around the world.
Along with this income generating project, she has taken on another initiative to build a Women's Community House. It is her dream that the Community House will provide a number of services to the local women and children, such as, counseling, skills development through training programs, adult education, physical education (yoga and meditation) and cultural programs -- with the objective of empowering the local village women, providing them with a safe place to heal their pains and upgrade their education.
What is Kolam?
Kolam is a decorative design drawn using rice powder by a female member of the family in front of their home, near the entrance. It is widely practiced by the Hindus in South India .
A Kolam is like a painted prayer – a line drawing composed of curved loops, drawn around a grid of pattern of dots. Kolams are normally symmetrical in design and attractively colorful. They are believed to bring prosperity to homes. Patterns and designs are normally passed on generation to generation, from mother to daughter.
Before sunrise, every morning, when the first sunrays caress the ground still moist with dew, while nature wakes up in a symphony of colors, smells and noises, millions of women come in silence bend down in an intimate reverence to the ground, smiling with all their being to Mother Earth who has always nourished and supported them. From their hands, a fine rice powder runs slowly like a filament of angel dust and leaves a delicate and immaculate trace in the body of the Earth. Their hands dance in circles, in slow gracious movement, and in the beauty of this silent creation, give life to a pattern, a song of love and gratitude, as transient as a butterfly day.
The floor is cleaned with water, the universal purifier, and the muddy floor is swept well for a clean and even surface. The Kolams are generally drawn when the surface is still damp so that the white powder is held better. Cow-dung, sweet smelling and gluey, is also used to wax the floors.
In the olden days, Kolams were drawn in coarse rice flour, so that the ants would be fed outside and not venture into the homes looking for food. The rice powder is also said to invite birds and other small creatures to eat, thus offering hospitality to other living beings as part of everyday life: a daily tribute to harmonious co-existence. It is also a sign of invitation to welcome all into the home, especially Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity.
Patterns can range between geometric and mathematical line drawings around a matrix of dots to symbolic free form of art work and closed shapes. Normally lines are to be completed so as to symbolically prevent evil spirits from entering the inside of the shapes, and thus preventing them from entering the home. Patterns and designs are normally passed from generation to generation, from mother to daughter.
Kolam in South India are admired for their simplicity, beauty and all that they symbolize: Happiness, Devotion, Hospitality, Harmony and Prosperity.
Lively Traditional Kolam Designs --
Kolam a sacred mandala of traditional blessing
* Traditional art form of Tamil Nadu.
* Inseparable part of daily life in South India
* Drawn daily at Sunrise by the village women bringing new energy and good vibration for the household like a bridge between the inner and outer world
* Invokes beauty, harmony and playfulness
* Designs are created on floors, walls, pots, paper and now fabric
* Each creation is dedicated to Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth, prosperity, harmony and love
* Is believed to protect the household from the evil eye.
* The Kolam exemplifies the ritual importance of the threshold; it helps the woman of the house protect her loved ones and household from harm, illness and injury throughout the day .
Lively Handmade Jewelry
Village women design earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and hairclips from left-over bamboo pieces and scraps of cloth from the Lively workshops. It is a spontaneous self-expression which also enables them to earn a living and feed their families.
Since the dawn of time in South India , women honor an ancestral tradition that celebrates the cre ation of the world: the kolam. This humble offering to the Divine is a blessing for the family, the house, the village. The Kolam is above all an act of creation that is also an offering and a blessing. Created in an impulse from the heart, carried by the breath of a woman it is the silent and ephemeral of an intention of love and devotion to the Divine.
The Kolam Tarot is a pack of 48 cards. Each card is a representation of a feelings that are evoked when drawing the kolam. There are 48 cards that symbolize the calendar cycle of Tamil tradition. It is known if one would like to practice something, it should be done for 48 days.
How to use it?
Lay the cards face down on a table, close your eyes center yourself in the space of your heart, listen to your thoughts, emotions. Observe your inner space. Start resonating with the cards. Hold your breath for a moment; ask a question if you wish, for example: which Kolam has a message for you right now?
Of which part of myself shall I become more aware of now?
To what shall I give more at tention today in order to grow?
Let your hands skim over the laid out cards. Release your breath and release your hand which will land like a butterfly on the card that is waiting for you. Turn it around, it is a gift from your soul, it is a gift from the depths of ages, it is a gift of the memory of Tamil women.
Take your time to observe it to fill yourself.
Kolams for the Planet
Rajaveni from Verite journeys to Germany as Cultural ambassador.
This January, Rajaveni had her photos in all the local newspapers in Bremerhaven , Germany . Looking beautiful and exotic in her sari, Rajaveni was shown lighting incense, offering a flower and performing an opening pooja. The visitors at the Kunsthalle Modern Art Gallery were spellbound. She had brought some large silk hand painted Kolams and this was the first time they had been presented in this way. Kolams by their very nature are individual, very temporary expressions of ancient South Indian Traditions. They are drawn by women on the ground in front of their homes at dawn, usually in white rice powder, but on special religious days in fabulous colors and intricate designs. It is an act of contemplation and concentration, a time of focus before the busy day starts. As the day progresses the rice grains are eaten by ants and walked over, but that is irrelevant as the Goddess has been greeted at dawn and honored. “It gives the women great satisfaction and pride to draw these ancient patterns,” says Rajaveni who wants to preserve and encourage the tradition.
It all started for Rajaveni when Anne Schmeikes, a German lady in her late fifties from Bremerhaven , came to Auroville in 2005. She immediately realized that her dreams of human unity resonated with those of Auroville's. Anne was a teacher of politics and economics in a German UNESCO school and she used to read Mother's Auroville Charter to her students. She was always moved by the way it inspired them. Anne had always been aware that the materialistic way of life of contemporary Europe was alienating many young people. Eventually she found an almost magical way of approaching and involving them though music and dance.
“Music touches young people like nothing else,” Anne enthusiastically explained. “Teenagers love break-dancing and hip-hop music with its dynamic movements that can be performing by any one. The kids who live on the streets learn to do the movements and put their energy into its endless variations and even organize competitions to see who can do the wildest movements. Its soul food.”
When Anne came to Auroville in 2005 and gave a workshop in break dancing to the Auroville kids, they had a great time dancing on the Solar Kitchen roof. She also organized a gospel choir.
She was also very inspired by the work of Mohanam Cultural Centre and that is where she met Rajaveni and was introduced to kolam. “I immediately recognized their simplicity and universal attraction. I deliberately chose a gallery of Modern Art in Germany to exhibit them as I feel very strongly that art and music should not be only for the elite. By letting people see the ancient beauty and wisdom of the kolams I hope eyes can be opened to see the universality and not the differences of cultures and races which is plaguing our countries.”
Rajaveni told us about her experiences in Germany . “The Weather in November was very cold but my heart was always very warm when I saw people's response. I gave kolam workshops in schools every day for 20 days and the teachers would tell me what an effect it had on the children. Hyperactive kindergarten kids would be able to concentrate for 40 minutes drawing their kolam on the floor. Teenagers who were rebellious and aggressive sprawled on the floor engrossed in the intricate patterns. It was as if it was a glimpse into another world for them – another way of seeing the universe.
“They were fascinated when I explained that certain special days, like puberty, marriage, or a housewarming, had special kolams. The astrological connection and the fact there were no kolams drawn on new moon day interested them, as did the materials that could be used on each day. Sunday, for example, is the day of the sun and wheat is used; Thursday is Jupiter and that day we use chickpeas.
“It was a remarkable experience to see how these young German children and teenagers responded to kolams. They were so different from anything they had experienced, yet their simplicity attracted them on a deep level. This is such a simple way to transcend the cultural and racial differences that are tearing society apart.
“My dream now is take the experience of Kolam drawing to other countries so more and more people can experience the satisfaction of making them, especially children and teenagers. It is also important to keep the tradition alive and give work to Tamil Women here in Auroville. Six women are now employed in Mohanam embroidering kolam patterns on cushions, hangings and T shirts. Any profits will go towards funding a Women's House in Mohanam.”
Lively Kolam Festival - 9 th January 2010
A sacred mandala of traditional blessing
It is considered a matter of pride to be able to draw complicated patterns without lifting the hands off the floor. In the Tamil month of “Margazhi” (mid December to mid January) the women showcase their skills by covering the entire width of the Threshold with one big Kolam. It is expected not to repeat the same pattern for the next 30 days. Kolams in South India are admired for their simplicity, beauty and all that they symbolize. They form an integral part of the South Indian Culture.
Rajaveni Saminadane is a youth and women leader in Auroville, where she directs “Lively” tailoring training centre, runs a traditional sacred art research program providing employment and education for women, and counsels teen girls in Mohanam Cultural Centre in a local village, including self-care education. The rest of her time, she is guest coordinator heading a team of nine at Vérité, an organic and sustainable community for personal growth and wellness. An inspiring example, she respectfully pushes the boundaries of her culture's understanding about the place of woman by honoring the full range of her creative capacities. Her social work extends to caring for elders and handicapped children. Raji's experience of supporting exchange students positioned her to support young people away from home on Surfing The Creative® programs with Melissa Michaels where she nourished them from within and without. Back home, she supports Golden Bridge India .
Shanthi is 28 years old and mother of one son and one daughter. She has done 12 th grade in the local government school. She has been working from the beginning of the Kolam Project and was trained in embroidery work for three months. Now she is giving training for new staff and students.
Jayalakshmi is 20 years old from Alankuppam. She has been working from the beginning of Kolam Project. She was done her high school studies in the local government school. She was trained in embroidery work for about three months in the beginning and now she is giving training for the new staff and students.
Nithya is 18 years old from Sanjeevi Nagar Village . She was trained in corporate secretary ship from Auroville Industrial School and has been working in this project for past two years.
Anandhi is 22 years old from Edayanchavady. She has done her training in Life Education Centre in Auroville where she specialized in Tailoring and Embroidery. She has been working for about one and half years in this project.
Manogari is 22 years old from Sanjeevi Nagar village. She has finished her higher secondary education from the local Government School . She is experienced in Tailoring work. She has been working for about five months in this project.
Dhanajayan is 37 years old from Pillaichavady village. He has done 7th grade in local government High school . He has 20 years experience in tailoring work and has been working for about 5 month in this project.
Govindhan is 34 years old from Kottakkarai village. He has done 5th grade in local government Primary school and has 15 years experience in Tailoring. He has been working for about 5 months in this project.
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