Forms of folk deities drawn on green areca leaf sheaths, cut made and planed, stitched together in specific shapes are called ‘kolam’. Colouring materials are collected from the surroundings. Creation of kolam is actually a complex process. No artificial substance is used here. Leaf sheath carefully detached from areca palm is cut at both ends. Upper surface is planed removing greenish parts using very small knife. Sheath pieces thus made are of uniform thickness. They are then cut into definite shapes as required for each Kolam. Number of sheaths used for kolam creation vary from one to one thousand one. Arrangement and alignment of each kolam different much from one another some are with face masks, some others are crown shaped, some are intended to mount on the head of the performer with the help of others as a few numbers are to be fixed on wooden frames moving on wheels.
Five natural colours, black, red, yellow, green and white, representing five elements (Panchabhootha) are employed in Kolamezhuthu. Burnt powder of mango leaf is used as black dye. Red stone is for red and juice of Manjachanna (a bushy plant) for yellow. White of planed leaf sheath is used for white colour. If green is required, greenish part of sheath is utilized as such. These dyes are kept in coconut shells or little pots made from leaf sheath. Tender leaf stalks of coconut are cut and split in to required size, one end of is transformed brustle like, to make brush for painting.
From the cut made face mask. Eye portion is removed leaving behind circular holes. From behind unplaned leaf sheath fixed stitching across it with borny vein (eerkil) of tender coconut leaf. This is to avoid the chance of thin plained s heaths being rolled and rouined by it self. This process is called ‘Padiveckal’.
Kolamezhuthu (actual painting) commences after making the kolam strong and well aligned. Eyes are drawn first while painting faces. For each line, there will be a ‘thunavara’ just out of it. Eyes, protruded teeth etc. are drawn in accordance with the deity concept. For manly ones like Ganapathy, Madan etc protruded teeth are drawn with little curvature. In Ganapathi teeth are drawn as if some of them are lost. There will be a third eye drawn on the forehead for Madankolam. After painting the Chettamadan Kolam fully, it is stitched on to the woven coconut leaf frame. On the border around there will be leafy twigs of Ilanji tree.
For kolam with feminine concept like Pillamarutha, yakshi etc. Ekir (protrunded teeth) is drawn with considerable curvature. Sharp beak made of areca leaf sheath is fixed at the mouth of Pakshikkolam. There will be chest shield for all kolam except Ganapathi Pishachu.
Kolam of Ganapathi, Antharayakshi, Mayeksi and Kalan are crown shaped. Holding the kolam on the head, fitting protruded teeth and with ‘Kannum kuriyum’ Performer takes steps. Kalankolam is made out of five or seven areca leaf sheath. It has three or five faces including that of the performer. Long cloth tied to the base frame of the kolam is drawn through the armpits of the performer and tied at the back.
Woven coconut leaf is split vertically and two strong rods from either sides are tied at the centre. Tender coconut leaf lets removing Eerkil are hung from either sides. Then horse head painted on leaf sheath is stitched at the tip. This is the mode of making Kuthirakkolam.
Making Large Kolams
Kolams of Bhairavi, Nina Bhairavi, Kanjiramala, Kalayekshi etc. are made using fifty one, hundred and one or thousand and one areca leaf sheaths. These huge kolams are stitch fastened to frames or vertically split areca palm pieces. Unplaned areca leaves warmed in sunlight is stitched to make pointed caps. Two holes are made on either sides of the cap. A strong piece of vertically split areca palm is inserted through the holes and another one inserted vertically through the pointed top of the cap. Lower end of this, rests on the already fixed horizontal piece. A number of pieces fixed on this structure both vertically and horizontally. Kolam is stitch fixed on this frame work. Number of faces drawn on such kolams vary as three, five, seven, nine or twelve. Faces are named as Kimpiri, Krishnamudi and Cherumukham. Around these faces there will be incomplete drawing of Sarppamukam such as chuzhippu and flowers. Edge of the kolam is ovalshaped puravada made by a stitching together a number areca leaf sheaths. Edge is yellow with rice shaped black dots on it. Outer to this there will be eyes or Sarppakkettu (shape of tangled serpents) Elephant and Lion painted on the ears of Bhairavi where as flowers for Kalayekshi and Kanjiramala. Alli (small cut pieces of Kuruthola) stitch fixed on the edges of both Bhairavikkolam and Kanjiramalakkolam. But for Kalayekshikkolam triangular pieces of areca leaf sheath are fixed on the edges and shoolam with eye is painted on each piece. All these kolams have chest shield. On the shield entangled serpants looking face to face are painted on the breast. The kolam made of One thousand and one are leaf sheath, is stitch frotened to the wooden frame and is moved on wheels.