No matter how old or young we are, festivals always evoke in us an excitement that’s hard to explain away. As kids, this excitement escaped through high energy races round the house and happy squeals of laughter, probably eager pleas to help out in the preparations, which were, more often than not, quashed as soon as they were made. As we grew older, although the desire to help out in the preparations was replaced by a powerful urge to escape even moderately strenuous activities, we still enjoyed soaking in the euphoria and excitement surrounding the festivities. But, we soon realize that it is these preparations that actually get us excited about the festival. Whether it’s dusting that old Christmas tree or cleaning out the lamps for the aarti or helping out with the sweetmeat making, it’s these tedious but absorbing activities that incite a festive spirit within us. One such activity, for all those who celebrate Onam is making the Pookalam.
For those who don’t know, the Pookalam is a cousin of the North Indian Rangoli, where the latter is created using coloured powders, for creating the former, flower petals are relied upon for composition, colour and texture. A great deal of skill is required to create a Pookalam, for each design must be symmetric and they must be filled evenly. One must have a keen sense of colour to create interesting colour combinations using different flower petals. Made only of flower petals, flowers and leaves, these expansive flower carpets take hours to make. The first design of the Pookalam is created on the first day of Onam – Atham. A small-sized design is chosen to begin with and then, on each passing day, the design is expanded on and finally, on the last day – Thiruvonam – a complex flower arrangement spanning 4 – 5 meters takes shape. In earlier times, the persons responsible for creating the Pookalam would go out into the fields to pluck flowers for their designs. Normally, the ten flowers native to Kerela (Dashapusham) were chosen for the activity.
Apart from beautifying the space surrounding the home, the Pookalam is created for another reason, and that is to welcome the beloved king Mahabali, who was banished from his kingdom by Lord Vishnu. However, pleased by his devotion, Vishnu permitted him to come visit his subjects once a year. The Pookalam is created to welcome and celebrate this visit. Haven’t seen a Pookalam before? Here are some beautiful creations to help you understand what one looks like better.