Prof. S. Naranan
67, 19th Street
Chennai 600041, INDIA
© Copyright 2007:
Prof. S. Naranan
Chennai 600041, INDIA
This website demonstrates with theory and
examples the connection between the beauty of Indian kolams with the elegance
of the well known Fibonacci Numbers.
Prof S. Naranan, a Physicist, in course
of drawing these Kolams as part of his many hobbies, discovered the elegant connection
and has come up with some fascinating designs. The articles and actual drawings
of the Kolams can be found by clicking the links on the left margin.
Kolams are decorative geometrical patterns that adorn the entrances of households
and places of worship especially in South India. Kolam is a line drawing of curves
and loops around a regular grid of points. Usually kolams have some symmetry (e.g.
four-fold rotational symmetry). There are variants:
(1) Lines without
(2) Lines connecting dots and
(3) Free geometric shapes without
lines or dots.
The last variety has sometimes, brilliant colors and is
known as Rangoli, popular in North India. The traditional South Indian kolam,
based on a grid of points is known as PuLLi kolam or NeLi kolam in Tamil Nadu
(PuLLi dot, NeLi = curve); Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh, Rangavalli in Karnataka
and Pookalam in Kerala.
Special kolams are drawn on festive occasions with themes based on seasons, nature (flowers, trees) religious
topics and deities. The month of Margazhi (Dec 15th to Jan 14th) is very special in Tamil Nadu. During this month,
everyday, with the crack of dawn, women draw large kolams with bewildering complexities with rice flour in front
of their homes. Rows of such colorful kolams on either side of the street, is a sight to behold for the passers by.
The folk-art is handed down through generations of women from historic times, dating perhaps thousand years or more.
Constrained only by some very broad rules, kolam designs offer scope for intricacy, complexity and creativity of high
order, nurtured by the practitioners, mostly housemaids and housewives, both in rural and urban areas.
Here we deal only with PuLLi kolam or kolam for short. The contents are
organized in three sections: articles, kolams slides and special kolams.
(Click on 'Paper I', 'Paper II' and 'Paper III' on the Left panel for PDF files):
KOLAM DESIGNS BASED ON FIBONACCI NUMBERS.
2.1: Part I: Square and Rectangular Designs.
We describe a general scheme for kolam designs based on numbers of
the Fibonacci series (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 .......). Square kolams
(32, 52, 82, 132, 212) and rectangular kolams (2 x 3, 3 x 5, 5 x 8, 8 x 13) are
presented. The modular approach permits extension to larger kolams and computer-aided
design. This enhances the level of creativity of the art.
2.2: Part II: Square and
Rectangular designs of arbitrary size based on Generalized Fibonacci Numbers.
The scheme is generalized to arbitrary sizes of square and rectangular kolams
using generalized Fibonacci numbers. The problem of enumeration – the number of
possible Fibonacci kolams of a given size – is discussed. Enumeration of kolams
of small size (32, 52, 2 x 3) is described. For 2 x 3 kolams kolams symmetry operators
forming a group are used to classify them. Finally, the scheme is further extended
beyond square grids to cover diamond-shaped grids. Possible connections of kolams
to Knot theory and Group theory are indicated.
2.3: Part III. Rectangualr Kolams with two-fold Rotational Symmentry
In Parts I and II, a general scheme was given to create square kolams based on 'Fibonacci Recurrence'. Based on the canonical Fibonacci Series 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 . . . . .
Square kolams 32, 52, 82, 132, 212 were presented in Part I. Square kolams of any desired size can be generated based on the Generalized Fibonacci Series (Part II). Rectangular kolams with sides as consecutive Fibonacci numbers – Golden Rectangles - were also drawn but they lack any symmetry property like the square kolams which have four-fold rotational symmetry. In this paper (Part III), Rectangular kolams with two-fold rotational symmetry based on Fibonacci Recurrence are presented.
Fibonacci Rectangles are based on two Fibonacci Quartets unlike the Fibonacci Squares that are based on one Fibonacci Quartet, and are therefore harder to create.
This Power Point file has 49 slides. The first 16 slides contain interesting facts
about Fibonacci Numbers. The remaining deal with the Kolam designs based on Fibonacci
Numbers. The kolams are duplicated from the two articles mentioned above. Explanations
for the kolam slides can be found in the articles.
The Generalized Fibonacci Numbers permit a wide choice for the rectangles
that go into the square designs. With the standard “Fibonacci Numbers” the rectangles
are “Golden rectangles” with sides equal to consecutive Fibonacci numbers and
their ratio approaching the Golden Ratio ? (=1.61803...). The explanations for
the 6 slides are given below; All these kolams have a single loop except the last
- (7 4 11 15) This code
implies that a 152 kolam is made up of a central square 72 surrounded by four
rectangles 4 x 11. The code for 72 is (3 2 5 7); or the 72 contains a central
32 surrounded by four rectangles 2 x 5. Each 4 x 11 rectangle is made up of three
modules: 42, 4 x 3 and 42.
(13 4 17 21) Since 21 is a Fibonacci Number, the canonical quartet code for 212
is (5 8 13 21). The “Golden rectangles” are 8 x 13, two consecutive Fibonacci
Numbers. But here we consider 21 as a “Generalized Fibonacci Number” and the quartet
code is (13 4 17 21). The 212 is made up o of a 132 surrounded by four rectangles
4 x 17. The 132 has the code (5 4 9 13) again different from the canonical (3
5 8 13). Each 4 x 17 rectangle is made up of 5 modules 42,42, 4 x 1, 42, 42.
- (12 7 19 26). This square
kolam, we name it “a e-kolam”, e representing the Euler’s constant (2.7182818.
. . .), the base for natural logarithms. The code implies that a 262 kolam has
a central 122 enveloped by four rectangular kolams 7 x 19. The ratio of the sides
19/7 = 2.714.., differs from e by 0.004 or < 0.15 % of e. So this kolam has “e-rectangles”
instead of the Golden rectangles. The central 122 has the code (8 2 10 12) – i.e.
a central 82 surrounded by four rectangles 2 x 10. In turn the 82 has the canonical
code (2 3 5 8). The 3 x 5s are Golden rectangles. So, this kolam features both
the Golden rectangles and the e-rectangles.
(7 19). This rectangle of sides 7 x 19 with ratio approximately equal to e, the
Euler’s constant, was used in the in 262 kolam above. It is made up of three modules,
a 7 x 5 rectangle sandwiched between two squares 72. The three modules are spliced
together at 6 points, indicated by dots. If splices at the points A and B are
added then the single loop kolam splits into three loops.
(15 7 22 29). This square kolam, we name it “ a pi-kolam”. The code (15 7 22 29)
implies that 292 kolam contains a smaller 152 kolam at the center surrounded by
four rectangles 7 x 22. The ratio of the sides of the rectangle 22/7 is the commonly
used approximation for pi, the ratio of the perimeter to diameter of a circle.
22/7 = 3.14285…differs from pi (=3.14159 ...) by 0.0013, which is < 0.04 % of
pi. - The code for 152 is (7 4 11 15) and the code for 72 is (3 2 5 7).
- The code for 152 is (7 4 11 15) and the code for 72 is (3 2 5 7). Each 7 x 22 rectangle is composed of 4 modules 72, 4 x 7, 4 x 7, 72 that are
spliced together at 15 places to produce a 3-loop design.
- This 292
kolam is built with 33 modules and 111 splicing points to produce a single loop
traversing 841 ( 292) dots or grid points.
(7 22). This shows the 7 x 22 “pi-rectangle” used in the 292 square kolam above.
The 15 splicing points come in three sets of 5 indicated by dots in the direction
of arrows. The three loops are shown in different colours. It is possible to convert
this into a single-loop kolam by removing the two splices at A and B.
Dr. S. Naranan (b. 1930) was an experimental cosmic-ray physicist and X-ray Astronomer based mostly in the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bombay, India, in a career spanning 42 years. He is a firm believer in the interdisciplinary character of science and has diversified his interests to other fields such as mathematics, statistics, computer science, biology, genetics and linguistics. He lives with his wife Visalakshi in Chennai, India.