What is a Golusu? Gopuram? and a Kolam?

In my most recent translation of the Tamil song ‘Ennavalay adi Ennavalay’, I found some references to words which are impossible to directly translate into English. I thought it was better to explain them in more detail in a separate post than add them as footnotes.

*1 Kolusu/Golusu is an anklet which usually has small bells attached so they make jingling noises as one walks. It is worn by women of all ages and sometimes very young boy-infants especially during festive occasions. Here is a picture http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3436/3183443747_16f2caa946.jpg taken from this website (http://flickriver.com/photos/rathan/tags/golusu/) which seemed to have the most clear picture of what South Indian Golusu-s look like.

Keep in mind that this is different from a Salangai, which is a thicker, heavier, louder anklet which is made of larger bells of similar shape/construction concept and is used by dancers and theatrical performers of various traditional forms. This type can be worn be men and women during performances. Here is a picture http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2119/2223060487_8db9b388c3.jpg

*2 Gopuram is an architectural structure on top of a Temple and sometimes on top of entrances to different levels of the temple depending on how big the Temple is. It is a pyramid-like structure with unique sculptures of various demi-gods and other mythical creatures at each level. The hierarchy of the symbols at each step, and how it varies depending on which part of the Temple it is located in, are too complex to explain here but here are some examples http://flickriver.com/photos/tags/gopuram/interesting/. Needless to say, it is considered beautiful and it is compared to her hair in the song ‘Ennavalay adi Ennavalay’ perhaps because they are both beautiful and many times there are gaps between the intricate sculptures just as there is in her hair.

*3 Kolangal is the plural form of the word Kolam. This is a geometric and symmetrical pattern women draw in front of their houses early every morning, around sunrise or before, as soon as they are done with their baths (and perhaps Tulasi prayers). Traditionally no one enters or exits the house before this is done because it is considered inauspicious. The patterns are infinite in variability and can be more complex and bigger, the more important a day it is. It is usually drawn using a special technique using two fingers and white powder. Earlier the powder was pulverised rice powder which are said to be eaten by ants, but the powders used today may be of a different substance. The pattern stays coherant all day because it takes up moisture from the washed ground (like wet chalk on a blackboard). In more rural or residential areas of the South, women draw another one at sunset at the time when lamps are lit after washing the morning Kolam off. Perhaps they are a display of the creativity and accuracy of the women in the household. Here are some simple ones. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_WnWeYpreHAc/R8LxF3uUEHI/AAAAAAAABM8/CQ-1YSRT9MU/s400/kolam5.jpg and a more complex one. http://www.allyouwannaknow.net/youtoocantry/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Image009.jpg. There are plenty more when one googles images of ‘kolam’ but beware, a coloured one is called a Rangoli and is more common in North India and at very special occasions in the South. These two are also disctinct from a Tibetan Mandala constructed by monks as a form of meditation although they share many similarities in construct.

See also