Chantal Jumel – WOMAN of ACTION™

A-Celebration-of-Women-Feature-Banner-e1352628808407 (1) 512


A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this woman leader, a remarkable woman in Paris, France who has done some amazing work learning and preserving the art, craft and designs of village rural women in India into our global alumni with open arms, embracing collaboration in bettering the lives of women, through her artistic approach to spiritual well-being for all women.




chantel jumel jpeg

Chantal Jumel

Chantal Jumel – a remarkable woman in Paris, France who has done some amazing work learning and preserving the art, craft and designs of village rural women in India … Freelance researcher, writer, specialized in Indian visual art, I give lecture demonstrations, organize workshops in various structures and I create ephemeral paintings and murals within the framework of exhibitions and festivals or on a purely individual basis.

She has a beautiful story to tell in French and English – I am wondering whether you would approve of giving her the exposure on “A Celebration of Women” … She has gone for several years to South India and worked and studied with the Indian village women and girls and is right now living in the South of India trying desperately hard to publish her French book into English by some Indian publishers …

In her own words:

“A journey to south India led me to the cultural centre “Vijnana Kala Vedi” to learn the traditional dance-drama Kathakali and the classical dance Mohini-Attam and later on, ephemeral ground paintings by means of mineral and vegetable powders.

Teaching and research were made possible by scholarships through the Indo-French Cultural Exchange Program and an allowance of the “Centre National du Livre” (Paris).

During my many sojourns, I have learnt from the Tamil women the repertory and symbolism of kolam and from Sri Parameswara Kurup, a ritual painter attached to the prestigious temple of Ambalapuzha in Kerala, the technique and spirit of kalam ground painting.

I graduated from the Sorbonne University, “Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes”, author of the film Kalam eluttu pattu, to paint and sing the kalam produced with the help of CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research).

I give lecture demonstrations and organize workshops in various structures in France and abroad, and I create ephemeral paintings and murals within the framework of exhibitions (Museum of Asian Arts, Nice) and festivals or on a purely individual basis.

The world of ephemeral paintings and Indian philosophy constitute the background of my graphic research between calligraphy and “calligrams”. I am engaged in an artistic quest rooted in the repetition of the sacred syllable OM and the drawing of traditional patterns.”

Ephemeral traces to invite the gods to descend

Indian art, what do we know?

chantel padikolam017Temples and palaces with magnificent architecture, sculptures like the gods or of exquisite miniatures. But along with these so-called classical arts, there is a world that is gradually opening the traveler provided with a pilgrim soul. With the earth as a place of expression, hand to one instrument and colored powders, Tamil kolam and kalam Kerala based on a double standard, that of silence and humility and that of symbolic writing, true door that opens to the world of imagination. Prayers for the eyes, ephemeral paintings lead us to the heart of the Indian tradition and its spiritual values.

In Tamil Nadu, it is women of all communities and beliefs combined with painting the floor. Just before sunrise on the dirt roads of a village or on the streets of a city thoroughly swept, female hands in search of eternity create fingertips ephemeral paintings called kolam to invite the gods down.

chantal Kolam-Jumel-01The kolams are transmitted orally and are inherited exclusively by mothers and grandmothers to their daughters, but in every house there is a book in which are recorded the most difficult drawings. Girls learn by watching, and then fill the spaces with colored powders. Later on the same themes, they invent for the most talented of them new reasons they will draw with skill and speed.

In this vast continent, the gods have crossed the boundaries of the temple, mountains or trees are their homes and animals or birds serve as their mounts. Trees, plants and flowers are dedicated to them but also symbolize their plant incarnations. It is in this millennium crucible of symbols and forms have emerged. They represent philosophical ideas or reflect customs and rituals specific to each region.

Voyage dans l’imaginaire Indien, Kolam, dessins éphémères des femmes tamoules. ~ Chantal Jumel

Kolam (Tamil: கோலம் kõlaṁ) is a form of painting that is drawn using rice powder/chalk/chalk powder/white rock powder often using naturally/synthetically colored powders in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and most parts of Kerala and some parts of Goa, Maharashtra, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and a few other Asian countries. A Kolam is a geometrical line drawing composed of curved loops, drawn around a grid pattern of dots. In South India, it is widely practised by female Hindu family members in front of their homes. Kolams are regionally known by different names in India, Raangolee in Maharashtra, Hase and Raongoli in Kannada in Karnataka, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh, etc.

chantal 24isbs_Kolams2_jpg_1338309fKolams are thought to bring prosperity to homes. Every morning in Tamil Nadu, millions of women draw kolams on the ground with white rice powder. Through the day, the drawings get walked on, rained out, or blown around in the wind; new ones are made the next day. Every morning before sunrise, the floor of the owners house, or where ever the Kolam may be, is cleaned with water and the muddy floor swept well to create an even surface. The kolams are generally drawn while the surface is still damp so the design will hold better. Even powdered white stone (வெங்கசங்கள் பொடி / மொக்குமாவு) can be used for creating Kolam.

Occasionally, Cow Dung is also used to wax the floors. In some cultures, cow dung is believed to have antiseptic properties and hence provides a literal threshold of protection for the home. It also provides contrast with the white powder.

Decoration is not the sole purpose of a Kolam. In olden days, kolams were drawn in coarse rice flour, so the ants would not have to walk too far or too long for a meal. The rice powder also invited birds and other small creatures to eat it, thus welcoming other beings into one’s home and everyday life: a daily tribute to harmonious co-existence. It is a sign of invitation to welcome all into the home, not the least of whom is Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity and wealth. The patterns range between geometric and mathematical line drawings around a matrix of dots to free form art work and closed shapes. Folklore has evolved to mandate that the lines must be completed so as to symbolically prevent evil spirits from entering the inside of the shapes, and thus are they prevented from entering the inside of the home.

3×3 symmetry 9 goddesses swastika Kolam with a single cycle by Nagata S, each of which corresponds to one of the nine Devi (Goddess) of the Vedic system
It used to be a matter of pride to be able to draw large complicated patterns without lifting the hand off the floor or standing up in between. The month of Margazhi was eagerly awaited by young women, who would then showcase their skills by covering the entire width of the road with one big kolam.

In the kolam patterns, many designs are derived from magical motifs and abstract designs blended with philosophic and religious motifs which have been mingled together. Motifs may include fish, birds, and other animal images to symbolize the unity of man and beast. Also used are designs for the sun, moon and other zodiac symbols.

The ritual kolam patterns created for special occasions such as weddings often stretch all the way down the street. Many of these created patterns have been passed on generation to generation, from mothers to daughters.

Seasonal messages like welcome (நல்வரவு) can also be used in Kolam. Volunteering to draw the kolam at temple is sometimes done when a devotee’s wishes are fulfilled.

chantal livre1

I am happy to share with you the release on August 13th of my book on south Indian Kolam. The English version is on the way and the title will be “Journey into Indian imagination, kolam, ephemeral drawings of Tamil Women

Kolam and KALAM, ephemeral ritual Paintings of South India

Author: Chantal Jumel (Winner SCAM 2010)
Editions Geuthner
(French language – Illustrations – Book accompanied by a DVD video)
This project is assisted in writing ” Draft of a dream “awarded by the MACC.

Summary of the book:

In South India, write or draw on the floor with rice flour or vegetable and mineral colors is called Kolam in Tamil Nadu and kalam in Kerala. These two regions declined ephemeral painting in two distinct modes: a daily activity and domestic female Tamil country and an occasional activity performed for specific rites and male specialists dealing in Kerala.

This book is a contribution to the graphic heritage of India where the linear retaining the line crosses the opulence and materials. Visual landscape most original shows simultaneously aesthetic precepts treaties, Hindu myths, beliefs or local codes contemporary world.

Far from being devoted to images only contemplation, the Kolam and kalam are pivotal ceremonies revolve around which one or more components that are prayer, music, singing, dance, mime and possession without forgetting medicine.

If you are interested (s), please leave me your contact through the “Contact” page’s book can be ordered directly from the Geuthner library.
Phone: +33 1 46 34 71 30
It is also available on the website of Decitre or to LaProcure .

Chennai, Chantal Jumel

The contest was held on North Mada Street. There were close to 100 participants.

Chantal Jumel

chantal Kolam-@-Chantal-Jumel-41The divine is invoked everywhere in India, even on the ground through drawing or painting with rice paste or vegetable and mineral based colored powders. In Tamil-Nadu, these drawings are called kolam and bear testimony to the richness of Indian graphical patrimony as well as to the extraordinary feminine creativity.

Auspiciousness is not only contained within temple walls; mountains are the abode of gods, and animals and birds their vehicles. Trees, plants, and flowers are means not only to worship them but also to symbolize their vegetable incarnations.

Chantal-Jumel-5Kolam-@-Tamil-Nadu, essentially rural, celebrates the sun, the cattle, and the snakes. This culture owns “totemic” trees and addresses god in the temple as if he was a king, dressing him with great pomp, pampering and feeding him, and in the evening, putting him and his queen to sleep with entertaining renditions of amorous verses.

It is a society where every village offers appeasing rituals to the territory guardians, and a culture still deeply imbued with the worship of heroes to whom villagers of the past venerated by erecting memorial stones. It remains a region where the roads overlap the circuits of ancient temples where poets described human emotions according to the country’s five landscapes: hills, desert trays, forests, the seaside, and fertile plains.

chantal mylapore-kolam-@-Chantal-Jumel1It is there in the Southern most part of the Indian peninsula that just before sunrise, women of all communities and beliefs draw on the ground. On the earthen lanes of a village or on the carefully swept pavements of a city, female hands create with the tips of their fingers, patterns that invite the divine to protect the house and the family.

With the ground as their canvas, hands as the instrument, rice paste or rice flour and coloured powders as paint, the kolam draws the viewer into a world of divine symbols and mystical attributes. The designs vary in accordance with current events or the Hindu calendar. Their silhouettes change depending on the day, sometimes figurative, sometimes sinuous, they become linear on Tuesdays and Fridays.

It is an anonymous feminine world of powder images, which border on calligraphy, geometrical diagrams, and fine embroidery. Behind every drawing, we read the story of a woman, of a mother and her daughter, and the memory of a culture through time. The kolam is a tradition passed down the generations from mother to daughter, but each household keeps a notebook where the most difficult patterns are recorded. The girls learn by watching, and later they will create new patterns with dexterity and speed.

chantal Kolam-Jumel-09Because the kolam blossoms at daybreak and celebrates the Earth and the link that human beings maintain with her, I always compared it with a visual chant that resonates silently in the hearts of the passers-by like the painted prayer renewed every day, not unlike the Suprabhatam, Sanskrit hymns chanted early in the morning to awaken the gods. The graphic recurrences similar to the priest’s incantations, punctuates the passing of time.

By repeating motifs or lines, we try at all costs to suspend the present moment. The hand tunes the breath on the delicate weft of dust which becomes a pattern and immobilizes time.

An early hour stroll through the Tamil streets captivates the ears much before the eyes can distinguish the surrounding world. Unnoticed, objects welcome daybreak and suggest their presence by assuming a rhythmic sound form. A faint whispering of the straw brooms and the splashing of water succeed the rustles of night-insects and the croaking of crows.

In the early hours, women come out of their homes with a powder-filled container. They call out to one another and one can feel the glances which gauge the spot where they will draw. Bodies bend over at right angles; the wrist induces a slow pace to the fingers, which drop down at regular intervals, discreet rice flour or quartz powder marks called pulli in Tamil. It is on this perfectly symmetrical dotted canvas that gradually, flowers, birds, divinities, or geometrical diagrams come to life.

Other women stretch out long parallel lines in a fluid and broad movement, almost as if brushing the ground. The swaying of the arms and of the whole body, the clear and wavy gesture freezes the lines that never seem to be willing to unite with the earth. When they finally land on the floor which has become powerful by the radiance of their whiteness, they elude by their modest playfulness the malevolent forces and protect the walker as well as the house members.

To me, the diagrams seem like geometric metaphors used to illustrate the idea of time in Hinduism, a periodical cycle where creation and destruction alternates rhythm of the universe and human life. How not to be fascinated by these geometrical arabesques? They are intimately linked to a life style and a culture which has always exalted the divine by drawing beauty out of disorder. The graphical exuberance akin to Tamil writing is disarming as we stroll through the streets of a city or the narrow lanes of villages at dawn.

If there is music in these lines, then it is similarly joyful and sensual. It glides under the steps of early passers-by, under the wheels of cyclists or handcarts pullers or still under those of small vans carrying away tiny grains of the rice dust as many unveiled intentions. The surrounding noise gets louder and louder as morning breaks, throbbing trucks, piercing rickshaw horns, bicycle bell ringing, sputtering mopeds, insistent calls of chai sellers, the day has begun and the busy anthill is a whirl of activity.

Today, the cultural as well as the economic context for the kolam has changed in Tamil-Nadu.

Women are working so the house is not anymore the only place for this morning ritual. Competitions take place in schools, in public halls or on the street like the Mylapore contest in Chennai. Welfare schemes use it as a tool to focus on social harmony and to promote awareness of environmental and health issues. Overseas, within expatriate Indian Diasporas, kolam explores new areas, reshaping itself according to new socio-cultural background.

The journey from a world to another world, from one culture to another has surely expanded its significance but hopefully the essential will remain through its intrinsic values, which are to welcome, to embellish, to pay tribute, to celebrate, and to attract prosperity.

chantal cropped-cow01

(This article was written for the HUM magazine based in Houston Chantal Jumel is a graduate from the Sorbonne University, and the author of “Kolam, Kalam, Peintures rituelles éphémères de l’Inde du Sud” GEUTHNER publisher, Paris, 2010. DVD included.) (South Indian auspicious thresholds and ritual designs). Jumel initially went to South India to learn the traditional dance drama art form of Kathakali, and she teaches, gives demonstrations and workshops, creates ephemeral paintings at art galleries, conferences, and festivals globally. Her second book will be published late spring, GEUTHNER. Voyage dans l’imaginaire Indien, Kôlam, dessins éphémères des femmes tamoules “Journey into Indian imagination Kôlam, ephemeral drawings of Tamil women”)

Tribute to my teachers

I dedicate these pages to Tamil women in my masters painting Kalam, my teachers Kathakali for me instilled the spirit of India.

Krishna_Nair1These are my teachers Chandramana Govindam Namputiri and later Kalamandalam Krishna Nair to whom I am indebted for having initiated me epics of India through learning Kathakali dance theater.

It is Thangammal I must have discovered the art of Kolam, his modesty and his morning lessons have opened my mind to the Indian painting. Thereafter, there were other meetings and I want to pay special tribute to Subhara Natarajan. Its graphical knowledge, his modesty and fervor were for me a life lesson.

chantal daughter of teacher - Natarajan1His daughters accompanied me in the village so I could photograph it, they have enriched my notebook many Kolam in the accompanying notes, appropriate verses and their translation and various directions so that I can give form to my search .

chantal jumel Malathi-682x1024I also thank the women of the neighborhood that I can not mention names, (not having had the opportunity to ask them) who spontaneously contributed; inserted between the pages of my book, filled with remarkable drawings leaves.

Also honor Vadivu and Malathi to me explained in detail family ceremonies and appropriate drawings. Be thanked that all women and girls of Pondicherry, Chennai, Coimbatore, Thiruvananthapuram and Kerala for Tatamangalam taught me practices and the intricacies of the plot to the rice flour.

chantal jumel vadivu-10-688x1024Meanwhile I discovered ephemeral votive paintings of Kerala through my painting master Mr Parameswara Kurup: an example of accomplishment in art. His generosity, perseverance and humility remain to this day a great source of inspiration. It is to him that I dedicate the film “Kalam pattu eluttu.”

chantal paintingLuckily, I found a close friend of mine Meena Dadha (FB) to help her in selling her art designs and write a preface for the English book …

Meena Dadha who is an incredible woman herself … holding large art exhibitions by unknown and well-known artists where the money goes to helping all those poor people who have lost their legs in accidents, diseases, etc. with free artificial legs …


Kolam as a temple service………by Chantal Jumel

Thanks to Maheswari for having accepted my presence. She considers her kolam drawing as a temple seva or disinterested service. The technic used here is called “maavu kolam“. It is done by soaking rice and grinding it smooth.Then, the kolam is drawn with the help of a piece of cloth dipped in the liquid and carefully driven by the middle finger.

Merci à Maheswari pour m’avoir autorisée à filmer. Elle vit sa pratique du kolam comme un seva ou « service désintéressé ».et répond présente à chaque célébration importante du temple de Sri Ramakrishna de Chennai et ses offrandes graphiques font l’admiration d’un grand nombre de fidèles.




Chantal Jumel – France | LinkedIn

chantal jumel | Kolams – Pinterest

Chantal Jumel – Google+



A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this woman leader, a remarkable woman in Paris, France who has devoted her life to the village rural women in India, into our global alumni with open arms; embracing collaboration in bettering the lives of all women, through her artistic approach to spiritual well-being for all women.


Brava Chantal!


A-Celebration-of-Women-Feature-Banner-e1352628808407 (1) 512

About Team Celebration

Team Celebration is a devoted group of women dedicated to sharing information that will better the lives of all women making this space a truly convenient Resource for Women globally. Speak Your Mind: You are invited to leave comments and questions below.

You simply type a KEY WORD into our SEARCH BOX at TOP RIGHT of Homepage and a list of associated topic articles offering truly educational and informative features will be at your fingertips.

Copyright 2022 @ A Celebration of Women™ The World Hub for Women Leaders That Care