Onam Pookalam

Onam is a festival celebrated in the Kerala (a state of India) . Government of Kerala considers onam as Kerala’s state festival and allocate lot of funds for onam related activities and sports. Along with the onam celebrations of 2008 there will be many onam pookalam competitions in coming weeks (pookalam is an art by flowers). The onam-2008 is on12th September 2008.

The Story of onam:

The origin of onam is a story connected with a mythical king known as Mahabali. Kerala people believe that, thousands of years before a king called Mahabali ruled kerala. As per the story, when Mahabali was ruling kerala there was no poverty, famine and people never use to lie. Since the king Mahabali’s rule was so good, his name spread all over the earth and the heaven. Due to this, the king of heaven Lord Indra got upset. He thought that if Mahabali’s name spreads like this, soon he will lose the heaven to Mahabali and King Mahabali would become the king of the heaven. So he prayed to Lord Vishnu for help, to protect the heaven from Mahabali (who is a damon king). Accordingly Lord Vishnu visited King Mahabali in the form of a small Brahmin boy and pushed down him in to a place called Pathalam with his leg.(Pathalam is the world under earth as per Hinduism). However, before pushing down Mahabali in to the pathalam, Lord Vishnu blessed mahabali, and permitted him to visit kerala once in a year as long as the world exists. Kerala people celebrate this day as onam.

Onam Pookalam:

In Malayalam, meaning of the poo is flower and kalam is drawing or artwork done in front of the house. Therefore, the pookalam is the artwork done by fresh flowers in front of the house. Pookalam is one of the main attractions of onam. It starts 10 days before onam day (called atham) and ends on onam day. There will be a pookalam In front of each house of kerala on onam day.

Pookalam competition:

As with the other popular events in the world, the pookalam also attracted the attention of business world, as an advertising opportunity. Therefore, in every year many onam pookalam competitions conducted, with the sponsorship of big business establishments. Almost all malayalee associations in different parts of the world including Singapore, USA, UK, Australia and Middle East will be conducting pookalam competition along with their onam celebration. Different teams headed by one or two artists will be competing in these competitions.

Rules of Pookalam:

The rules of the pookalam will change as per the nature of organization conducting the competition, as some organization may allow displaying sponsor names where as others may not allow it. But there are some common rules to be followed in these competitions.

  1. Materials: – Teams can use only fresh flowers and leaves to make the pookalam. Teams should not use the sawdust, shredded coconut, and artificial colors.  If requested by the judges, the teams should show and prove the materials used in their pookalam. Colors of the flowers should not enhance by using the artificial colors. If any team is using any of the above practices, it will lead to disqualification of their pookalam.
  2. The Big flowers: Teams should make the Pookalam with sepals of flowers only, and not with the whole flowers. Even if you are creating the same flower itself, you must separate the sepals and keep it back. Sepals of the flowers may cut in to the small pieces. Using whole flowers, instead of sepals to make the pookalam will lead to disqualification of the pookalam.
  3. Pookalam: Teams must make the pookalam on the place provided by the organizers. Making pookalam on a paper or on a pre-drawn board will lead to immediate disqualification of pookalam. However, Teams can use a pre-drawn paper or drawings, and transfer the drawings to the place provided by organizers.
  4. No mess up of nearby pookalam: Any team members intentionally messing up the nearby pookalam or the area allotted to the other teams will lead to immediate disqualification of the team and pookalam.
  5. Traditional Decorations: After finishing the pookalam, temas can keep nirapara (Indian style measuring cup), nilavilakku (in style lamp) and/or  any other traditional materials to increase the appearance and traditional value of the pookalam. However, you must keep these things according to the traditional way and at the correct corner of the pookalam. You may lose points if you keep nirapara and nilavilakku in the wrong side of the pookalam.
  6. The theme: The theme of the pookalam can be an art with Indian cultural value, or kalam itself. If you restrict the theme of the pookalam to kerala, all pookalam themes will be of kathakali, mohinyattam (kerala Cultural dances) and vallam kali (Kerala boat race), which will take away the beauty and diversity of pookalam. The theme can carry negative points (instead of positive points), to discourage people from using themes which is not suitable for the occasion. This will encourage the artist to select broad and diversified themes without worrying for points.  Theme can also reflect the nature of the organization or the area of interest they are involved in.
  7. The artistic value: – This point is for the artistic value of pookalam. We can consider this point is for the artist who has designed the pookalam.
  8. Quality: This point is for the quality of flower arrangements and neatness of surroundings.

Onam pookalam in greeting cards:

Lot of Online greeting card sites are using pookalam as their theme for onam card. You can find lot of onam cards on below site