Friday, November 23, 2007

MUSEOLOGY: Kalamezhuthu

Through the first 2 days of having discussed the aim of the project which was to "Giving Form to Content" in a museum; here are some of the things that I thought would make my task easier and help me understand the client's needs better.

  • Inter cultural Dialogue?
  • For an International Audience (but not forgetting Locals)


  • Objects should be creatively assembled for enhanced associations and interactions
  • Objects should not be static and should become a Vehicle for Thinking

  • Documenting and Staging objects

After doing some research on the various art forms and performing arts of Kerala I chose to focus on Kalamezhuthu.


In malayalam Kalamezhuthu means drawing. The art of creating very large pictures on floor, with coloured powders has been in vogue for ages as a ritual art form. It is typically Indian while being 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 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 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.
The kalam is a unique drawing also called dhulee chithram or powder drawing. The artist uses the floor as his canvas. Kalamezhuthu is performed as part of the rituals to worship and propitiate gods like Kaali, Ayyappan or Vettakkorumakan. Kalams are drawn in connection with the worship of Devi and Sastha. Kalam is especially done during Naga puja. Offerings such as ‘Nirapara (heap of rice)’ and other grains are placed in its respective places. The room will be decorat
ed with flowers, garlands and leaves. Only oil lamps are used to light up the function.

During the rituals the dancer erases the entire drawing with tender palm fronds. Certain variations of the rituals are found in Tantric rituals too. In each case the patterns, minutest details, dimensions and colour choice are mandatory and not arbitrary. The patterns vary considerably depending on the occasion, but rarely by the choice of the artist. Even the order of creation is laid down.
The drawing is done directly with the hand, that is, without using any tools whatsoever. The powders used are all natural (Vegetable or Mineral or combined). The usual items used are: Rice (white), Turmeric (yellow), Charcoal from paddy husk (black), blend of Turmeric powder and Lime (red) and powdered leaves (green). Although several leaves are found suitable, the most commonly used are those of Albizzia lebbek.
The drawing of the large picture develops gradually about a central line, drawn with the black powder. Sketching, if done, is also with powder onl
y. The coloured picture is developed patch by patch, growing outward.
Usually Kalamezhuthu is conducted as part of the general festivities in the temple, or as part of a major ritual like Nagapuja. The rituals related to the Kalam are performed by the artists themselves, usually the traditional drummers. Offerings like rice and other grains are heaped in appointed places in and around the drawing and the room is decorated with flowers, leaves and garlands. Lighting is of utmost importance in these rituals. Only oil lamps are used. Singing hymns in praise of the deity is the most important part of the ritual. The type of songs vary considerably (from folk to classical) depending on the deity being worshipped. The drawing starts at appointed time and is
erased immediately after the rituals related to the Kalam are over. The kalams or drawings are erased with the accompaniment of musical instruments like ilathalam, veekkan chenda, kuzhal, kombu and chenda.


After the preliminary research, this is the display that I came up with:

The aim of my display was to inculcate a feeling of Respect among the audience that viewed both the Aiyyapan Thiyattu and Kalamezhuthu. The object becomes secondary due to the nature of my display where the performance (i.e. the act) takes centre stage. The display has been designed in such a way that the audience is given a different perspective of both art forms. I think the ability of the display to shed light on the different aspects of Kalamezhuthu and Aiyyapan Thiyattu and energize it, is extremely important.

Ground Floor:

  • This room is a display room as well as a performance room.

  • The display in the centre of the room which will be used to showcase the musical instruments used for Aiyyapan Thiyyatu and Kalamezhuthu. This display can moved to create a space for a dance performance.

  • There will be audio visual instillations on either sides (two opposite walls) which will be shown on canvas like screens. The instillation will be a combination of moving images and sounds along with dynamic text. A small paragraph giving information about the instillation and Aiyyapan Thiyattu will be provided along with the instillation.

  • The walls of the ground floor are black and so is the floor, so that during a dance recital the lights can b focused on the dancers and the walls on either side are not distracting (because they will be in complete darkness).

  • The white wall at the back of the room, where the stairs are located will be a textured wall. This wall will be made of squares and will enable the creation of hollow spaces in which brochures, postcards etc. can be placed. This effect will be obtained through relief work.
  • Stairs are suspended from the ceiling on one side and join the textured wall for added stability and strength. The steps which are white have traditional lamps placed on the steps at regular intervals.

First Floor:

  • The first floor has been created using a false ceiling method. The floor has a glass piece in the centre on which Kalamezhuthu is performed. This allows filming and documentation from both the top and the bottom( by filming from the ground floor). The glass also lets viewers on the ground floor view a part of the drawn kalam and urges them to go upstairs and view the display.
  • There is seating on either side of the kalam that can be folded for maximum usage of space. This seating can also be used to display the musical instruments from the ground floor incase there is a performance on that floor.
  • On the white textured wall there will once again be place to display information and little compartments to display the powders that are used to create the kalam.
  • The fourth wall is made of glass so as to create a sense of space and reduce the claustrophobic feeling. This wall will also have a screen that can be rolled out to project the ‘making of the kalam’ through a time-lapse film.


Creating a poster that would not only justify the project but also my own display was a very hard task.I finally came up with an idea that suited the core thought of my display viz. the process. Hence I chose to create a minimalistic poster that only showed a part of the process and gave the audience a "taste" of what is in store for them. The poster has a minimalistic look thus enhancing the over all effect of capturing the viewers imagination. The poster tries to show the 'alternate'ness of the museum. The aim of my poster was to be inviting to the international audience while keeping in mind that the locals do not feel alienated.

The elements in this poster are the words See and Seek which have been used in a playful manner to call out to the audience. The poster also includes the name of the museum and the timings and the weekly holiday.


The objective of my catalogue was to present a plathora of information in a simple yet ease way. The idea was to make sure the reader does not get discouraged on seeing so much data in the catalogue.
The catalogue I have designed is simple with a graphic element added to it. I felt that with the appropriate use of images the reader would not only feel comfortable with the information but the pictures would help illustrate the information and shed light on the subject in a better way.


My display for the museum has a potential sponsor. I am currently working towards creating 2 seperate displays, one for the sponsor and the other for the museum itself.I recently met up with an architect Anuj Rao, who helped me come up with ideas for the sponsor's display.

I am now working on creating the sketch on Auto CAD and hope to create a full fleged model by the end of it to show the sponsor.

1 comment:

Shutterfly said...

OO. I like the poster muchly. :)