Come Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, one may come across intricate floral designs in the frontyards of the rural homes. Popularly called Pookkalam or Athapookalam, these designs are essentially connected with the culture of Kerala. Preparing Pookalams has been followed as a ritual as part of the ten days long Onam festivities.
Making Pookalam marks the beginning of the Onam celebrations, on the Atham day of the Malayalam month of Chingam and it concludes on the Thiruvonam asterism. Pookalams are a sort of floral tribute to King Mahabali, who is supposed to visit his dear subjects during the Onam days.
Handpicked flowers of plants found in the countrysides of Kerala are generally used to prepare Athapookalams. Thumba (Lucas aspera), thechi (ixora), chembarathi (shoe flower), konginippoo (lantana) and hanuman kireedam (Red Pagoda plant) are the most frequently used flowers.
These flowers will be arranged in exquisite patterns, which demand a lot of creativity and imagination. Though the cultural and ecological ambience of Kerala has undergone a considerable change, Onam without Pookalams is something well beyond the fancy of the Keralites.