Kerala the State in the southern-most tip of India is also called ‘God’s own country.’ It has earned this term because of its pristine natural beauty, scenic coastlands and abundance of fruit and vegetation. ‘Onam’ or the harvest festival is the biggest festival celebrated by the citizens of this state. It falls sometime in August or September and is hailed as the time when king Mahabali visits Kerala again. Along with sumptuous food, grand celebrations, and family reunions, Onam is traditionally when the best rangoli designs are made throughout Kerala. These special Onam rangoli designs are called pookalam or pookollam.
Onam rangoli designs are made largely with flowers. These flowers are then embellished with beads, semi-precious stones, sequins and the like to add variety to the design. A centrally placed brass lamp is of great significance and usually provides the focal point. Small brass or earthen lamps are also placed around the perimeter of the rangoli design, both for religious and aesthetic purposes. A wide variety of flowers both individually and in strings are used in these designs. The most common choices are jasmine strings, marigolds, roses, daisies and Lucas Aspera as this is considered to be the favorite of Lord Shiva whom Lord Mahabali worshiped devoutly.
The use of artificial flowers or colors and desiccated coconut is strictly forbidden in these Onam flower carpets. Onam extends for a total of 10 days. The initial design of the pookollam is laid on day one and the design is started. Each day a little more is added by the women and girls of the household. By the last day, when the big feast is celebrated, the design will be completed and sometimes will have a diameter of five meters. Flowers, petals, and leaves are bought every day by the kilogram and stored carefully to ensure that only the best blooms go into the design.