JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use the Site in standard view. However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser. To use standard view, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options.

| Last Updated:: 05/09/2019

The festive traditions of pookkalam















As Malayalis in the city gear up to celebrate Onam, we try to track down the origins of the various athapookkalam practices. Atham day is considered auspicious by Malayalis, and it begins with many offering prayers in temples. From Atham onwards, in many homes, a special breakfast is served at homes including steamed bananas and fried pappadams. It’s also the day when swings are tied, songs are sung and pookkalams are made to welcome Mahabali, whose spirit is believed to visit Malayali homes during Onam.





On Atham, thumbapoo is used to create a floral carpet in a single circle. With each day, the number of flowers and circles increase, with the 10th day of Thiruvonam having a pookkalam with 10 circles. Apart from thumba and thulasi, other commonly used flowers in pookkalam include chethichembarathi, mandaram, konkani, shankupushpam and mukutti.





The base of the floral carpet is usually made from clay and cow dung. Also in many homes, three pookkalams are made on Thiruvonam, from the entry steps of the house to the portico. Another addition followed in north and central Kerala is the kuda, a miniature umbrella created with strips from coconut leaves and hibiscus. The pookkalam laid on Thiruvonam will usually be removed the next day, Avittam.





Interestingly, academician and researcher P Ranjith, who has specialised in the various aspects of Onam, tells us that the festival was not even celebrated in south Kerala till the formation of the state in 1956.





He says. “In 1960, Onam was officially made the state festival of Kerala and that’s when the standardisation of the festival happened, including creating pookkalams and the accompanying festivities,” he says.





Based on his research, he says that those in Thiruvananthapuram never had a celebration called Onam. “Instead, they had a festival connected to Sri Padmanabhan, the presiding deity of Thiruvananthapuram, on the Thiruvonam day in the month of Chingam,” he explains.








The Times of India, 05 September 2019, Chennai.