This Onam, Adorn Your House With A Pookalam

There are many cultural rituals and processions associated with Onam. Among these, creating a Pookalam is one of the top traditions among Keralites
Pookalam is an essential part of Onam festivites
Pookalam is an essential part of Onam festivitesShutterstock

The festival of Onam is widely recognised as the "national festival of Kerala," and is celebrated with full splendour and joy. Various processions, such as Athachamayam or the Athachamaya, occur each year.

Onam celebrations in Kerala
Onam celebrations in KeralaParikh Mahendra N /

These diverse cultural art forms attract hundreds and thousands of people to the Kanakakkunnu Palace. Cultural events like dramas, music festivals, Kathaprasangam, and Kathakali performances are just a few of the many programs available to the public.

The Kanakakkunnu Palace in Trivandrum
The Kanakakkunnu Palace in TrivandrumWikimedia Commons

In Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), thousands gather at the PMG junction to enjoy the illuminated streets stretching from East Fort to Vellayambalam.

Theyyam artists parading near Vellayambalam
Theyyam artists parading near VellayambalamAjayTvm /

All About Pookalam

The celebration of Onam cannot be complete without a Pookalam. Pookalam, also spelt as Pookolam or Athapookalam, is a rangoli-like design made of flowers, where "Poo" refers to flowers and "Kolam" refers to the rangoli design.

A Pookalam design with a homage to Kerala in the centre
A Pookalam design with a homage to Kerala in the centreShutterstock

Story Behind Pookalam

According to the legends, Pookolams were first created to greet King Mahabali, the mythical king of Kerala. Mahabali, also known as Mahaveli, used to visit his kingdom every year during Onam. After being tested for his devotion by Lord Vishnu's fifth avatar, Vamana, Mahabali was sent to the Nether World (Patala Loka) but was granted a boon that allowed him to visit his kingdom once a year (a legend that sounds strikingly similar to the Greek story of Persephone). As per Mahabali's story, people would adorn the streets with floral carpets to welcome their king every Onam.

King Mahabali at the centre of a Pookalam
King Mahabali at the centre of a PookalamShutterstock

Designs Of Pookalam

In certain regions, the Pookalam is used to display each nakshatra of the day. For instance, during Moolam day, the four corners of the Pookalam would be highlighted.

Additionally, a traditional Pookolam with multiple rings (concentric) is created to honour various deities. The rings inside the design are dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi, their sons Ganesha and Kartikeya, Lord Brahma (the creator of the Universe), and lastly, the Vamana Avatar of Lord Vishnu and King Mahabali.

Common flowers used in Pookalam include Vishnukranthi, Karuka, Muyal Cheviyan, Thiruthaali, Cheroola, Nilappana, Kayyonni, Poovamkurunilla, Mukkutti, and Uzhinja.

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