Being a keralite its a shame for me that I have never done a post on Onam so here it goes. Onam is the state festival of Kerala and most of the offices & schools get a weeks holiday for the celebrations. Since I am here in Karnataka, I am working even on Onam day and my celebration stops with onam pookkalam in the morning. A bit about the mythology behind onam festival :
There was this very popular king named Mahabali who was ruling the state of Kerala and all the natives were happy with his just nature of rule. It is said that the devans became jealous of his popularity and so Vishnu came down to earth as Vamanan ( boy avatar) in order to give him a test. Now Vamanan asked Mahabali for three foot land so that he could rest and Mahabali being the just king, granted his wish.
Vamanan now turned into a gaint form and with one foot covered entire earth, next step covered the sky and for the third step, Mahaballi king offered his own head in order to keep up his promise. But before that Mahaballi asked for a wish to visit his people (praja) once in a year and Vamanand agreed. Keeping his third step on Mahaballi’s head, Vamanan sent the king to Patalam and every year for onam, Mahaballi is believed to be returning to visit his praja.
The popular king that Mahaballi was, his return on Onam is celebrated all over the state and as welcome gesture, all homes are decorated with flower carpet or onam pookkalam at the entrance. Not to forget onam sadya which is an elaborate lunch with many varities of curry, side dishes and sweets all for our own Mahaballi.
Coming to Onam celebrations, Onam pookkalam is an indespensable part of the celebration. Irrespective of religion, almost everybody gets involved in the celebration with pookkalams and onam sadya. The most memorable part as a school student has been the onam pookkalam competition we had every year for onam. Although as kids we were often given the jobs of seperating petal and cutting leaves, it was neverthelss fun seeing the whole pookkalam grow into such beautiful patterns.
Look at how pretty all the pookkalams are in the above photo. Onam means pookkalam and pookkalam competitions everywhere!
Our older generations grew up celebrating onam in traditional way – waking up early and running to fields with baskets to collect flowers for pookkalam. The traditional flowers used were Thumba (Lucas Aspera), Kakka Poovu, Thechipoovu, Mukkutti (little tree plant), Chemparathy (shoe flower), Aripoo or Konginipoo (Lantana), Hanuman Kireedom (Red pagoda plant) and Chethi (Ixora) etc etc. We but find convinience in buying flowers from market – that gives us the chance to get colorful too! Neverthless, putting onam pookkalam is never seen as an easy task . Lets see some simple designs first and then get into some tips on making your own grand onam pookkalam.
Simple designs in 2-3 layers can be easily made by drawing the patterns by hand with a wet chalk over hand. It is always better to draw the pattern on a paper and decide which colors are going to be used in which parts so that you can decide the quantity of flowers beforehand. Dont stress too much about perfect pookkalams for home. Even little is more – all you need is for the family to come together and have fun 🙂 Here is what you can try for homes with flowers from your garden :
For a larger onam pookkalam especailly for office function or even apartment associaltions etc, you need to plan very carefully. If your base design is assymietrical , your onam pookkalam will also look awkward!First is to draw the onam pookkalam on paper. Normally you start with set of circel, divide the circles equally by drawing diameters and then draw patterns by filling from center to outwards. I saw this excellent tutorial on drawing the onam pookkalam pattern on paper.
If you have lot of time, your option is to replicate the same design on the floor in the same way you did on paper. As a substitute for paper, you can use chalk piece tied over threads of different lengths for different radiuses. Oh I forgot, wet chalks – wet your chalk so that the outline design stays all through the pookkalam laying process.
Another cool method I read here on this blog to make pookkalam design is to use a shower curtain or you can buy these sort of plain transparent plastic sheets ( generally used for table colvers etc) and cut it out in exact shape after drawing the design in permament marker. Such a neat trick to put onam pookkalam.
Anyways once the pookkalam design in done, move on to filling the design with flower petals and recommended is inner to outer so that you dont have to strethch beyond your capacity to lay the flowers. What we usually practice is while one team gets flowers and seperates petals, the other team finishes the design outline so that together we sit and complete the pookkalam.
Few props to add glamour to your pookkalam are diyas and lapms. Few more designs to enjoy 🙂 If you are artistic enough, go for freehand designs with vallamkali boats or kathakali face etc.
Hope you liked this article on onam pookkalam designs. Wishing you all a very happy Onam 🙂