Making colourful carpets

beautiful Designs
Last Updated 15 September 2013, 15:22 IST

The highlight of Onam might be the sumptuous sadya that most Malayali households make it a point to serve on the occasion, but another aspect of the festival that always generates some excitement is the tradition of making pookalams.

   These bright arrangements, made with flower petals and sometimes leaves, adorn doorsteps and courtyards in the time preceding the festival; a variety of bright flowers and intricate designs are used to add a bit of colour to each home.

   It’s an activity which is treated with a lot of enthusiasm in most Malayali households — a lot of care is taken to choose the right flowers, select appropriate designs and spend time together while actually making the pookalam.

Most Malayalis settled in the City have fond memories of making pookalams at home even if they don’t follow the tradition here.

“At home, Onam always meant pookalams. My mother and sister used to sit together and make them. They used bright flowers and sometimes leaves; I remember that there would be rings of colour — white in the centre, then yellow and then red,” says Shiju Krishnan, an entrepreneur.

Traditionally, the festival of Onam spans ten days and the pookalam is made on the first.  Lalitha, a resident of Sarjapur Road, recollects that the designs were made with a lot of fanfare earlier and fresh patterns were created on each day of the festival.

“The practice was to put petals of different flowers into the pookalam on each day. But now, most people only use one or two to save time. Technically speaking, pookalams are supposed to face South and were made on the threshold of the house or courtyard. But because of lack of space, people make them inside these days,” she says.

She has also noticed that new designs are creeping into the traditional pookalams.
“Usually, people make round ones with some patterns inside. But of late, families have started experimenting with new designs — I’ve seen some in the shape of deities and others fashioned like stars,” she explains.

Myriad flowers are used to bring colour to the designs; traditionally, the most
commonly-used ones were thumba, mukuti and hibiscus.

“However, it’s tough to get these flowers nowadays. That’s why a lot of families stick to bright flowers that don’t dry easily, like jamandi — which you get in yellow and light pink shades — and the bright magenta vadamalli,” adds Lalitha.

Another problem that families face is that the price of these flowers shoot up during this time of the year.

 Beena, a lawyer, says, “One issue is availability. We don’t get many flowers in
Bangalore, so we stick to using jasmine and mallige. Besides, it’s getting more expensive each year. I bought enough flowers for a small pookalam at the flower market in Thippasandra and it cost me Rs 60.”

For most, other than tradition and festivity, making a pookalam is something that brings the family closer.

“I always associate Onam with family time, new clothes, sadya and pookalam.
Back home in Kerala, my sister would draw designs and we used to help convert these into large pookalams.

It was always great fun and one of the main things I miss about home,” says Achuthan, a management student.

(Published 15 September 2013, 15:22 IST)

Follow us on