* Janmashtami kolams: During the festival of Krishna Jayanthi (Krishna`s birthday) or Janmashtami, the kolams are drawn showing little feet going from the entrance of the home to the puja room. These denote that young Krishna has walked into the puja room of that home to bless the dwellers that day. A large kolam is also drawn at the puja altar.
* Pookolams: In Kerala, Pookalam, the floral kolam is made on the occasion of Onam. Pookolam is an intricate and colourful arrangement of flowers created on the floor at the entrance or veranda of a home.
Onam is a harvest festival celebrated in Kerala. It marks the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali and lasts for about ten days. It is said that the soul of King Mahabali visits the homes in the state in these ten days of Onam; and is happy to see beautiful pookolams greet him at the entrance of each home. Being satisfied thus, he ensures that prosperity and happiness fill the people in that home. Onam usually falls during the first month of the Malayalam calendar (August-September). This festival is linked to many elements of Kerala’s culture – like the visually stunning, intricate flower carpets (Pookolam), elaborate lunch (Onasadhya), snake boat races and traditional dances.
'Pookolam' consists of two words; 'poov' meaning flower and 'kalam' means colour sketches on the ground. It is considered auspicious to decorate a home with a pookolam, (also known as 'Aththa-Poo') during the ten day festival of Onam. The design of the Pookolam can be simple or intricate depending upon the creative abilities of the team creating them.
Making of a Pookolam: For making a pookalam, first the entire floor is cleaned. Then, cow dung is spread over the entire area where the pookalam is to be made. Once the cow dung is evenly spread, motifs on it are made using bamboo sticks. The making of a pookolam involves creating a circular shaped and multi-tiered colourful arrangement of flowers, petals and leaves. The use of powder colours, desiccated coconut or artificial flowers is prohibited. Pookalams are usually created in the court yard of a home. The diameter of a pookolam normally ranges from four to five meters. Generally, the pookalam is made in ten rings, each representing a ‘God’.
Making a pookalam every day is like a ritual in every home during the ten-day-long (Atham to Thiruvonam) celebrations. Flowers are used on each day, as a particular flower is dedicated to each day of Onam. The first day – Atham is when the design starts to take shape and is completed by the tenth day -Thiruvonam day. The size of a pookalam is increased daily by adding a ring or a step on the outside to it; hence a really large pookolam gets ready for the main day of Onam.
It is a popular belief that the ten rings or steps of the pookalam represent ten deities in the Hindu pantheon. The first step represents Ganesha, second represents Shiva and Shakti, third represents Shiva, fourth represents Brahma, fifth represents Pancha Boothangal, sixth represents Shanmughan or Muruga, seventh step represents Guru, eighth step is for Ashta digpalakar, ninth represents Indra and tenth represents Lord Vishnu.
Various flowers are used on each day as a specific flower is dedicated to each day of Onam. Commonly used flowers to make a pookolam are: 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). Of all these flowers, Thumba flowers are given more importance in pookolam as they are small in size and glitter in the soft rays of the sun. The 'Thumba Poo' is also considered to be the favourite flower of Lord Shiva and King Mahabali was a devout worshipper of Lord Shiva. Idols of Mahabali and Vishnu are placed in the centre of the pookalam and worshiped.
On the next day of Onam, again the Thumba flowers are used to decorate the Onapookolam. The arrangement is not touched for the next 15 days. On the 15th day, called 'Ayilyam', pookolam is decorated again. On the next day, called Magam, the pookalam is cut at four corners with a knife. This marks the end of the pookalom decorations for the year. Some also follow the tradition of erecting a small pandaal( a protective shelter) over the completed flower carpet and decorate it with colourful festoons.
The making of a Pookolam is itself a colourful and joyous event. This is possible only by team effort and along with the huge quantities of flowers (usually in kilos), dedication, creativity and technique; the occasion also generates a feeling of togetherness and goodwill amongst the people.
Changing Trends: In the earlier times, people used to make efforts to collect flowers for creating a pookolam. Children used to get up early in the morning and gather flowers in their small 'Pookuda' (basket) from village gardens. But the trend has changed presently; people use the option of buying flowers from the market in the shape and colour of their choice.
Pookolam creation competitions are organised by various societies and groups all over the state on the day of Onam. They have become extremely popular and witness huge public participation. Also a large number of people visit such venues to have a look at the innovative and meticulously created floral art. It is only through such efforts that this art continues to be alive in the urban regions.
Pookolam is no longer limited to the festive occasion of Onam – it is being adopted to grace venues, public places for celebratory occasions with creative and innovative twists.
Making of a pookolam at IDC:
The following pictures show the team spirit and creativity displayed by the students of IDC, IIT Bombay in creating a unique pookolam in the foyer of IDC on the occasion of Onam. A basic template of the kolam is drawn on the ground at first using a light coloured chalk. Then different coloured flower petals and green leaves are painstakingly arranged inside this design to create an elaborate floral carpet.
The final completed, beautifully rendered pookalam with Onam greetings etched by flower petals.
Another such pookolam was created for the inaugural ceremony of the Typography Day at IDC. This too was created by students, incorporating the theme - by using alphabets of different Indian languages or the typefaces into this floral floor art. This was done through the use of flower petals of different colours and leaves as can be seen in the following pictures.
1. A basic grid being created for the rendition of the pookolam
2. The petals from large flowers like marigold being separated. These floral shreds not only add colour but also add texture to the pookolam.
3.Once the flowers are prepared and the colour scheme worked out, the process of filling into the design is begun, starting from the centre.
4. Since an even texture and thickness are essential the floral shreds, leaves, are meticulously placed.
5. Pure team effort is what makes this floor art possible.
6. Once completed, the surroundings are cleaned up and the area is geared up for the inaugural ceremony.
7. The pookolam adds to the festive spirit while the symbolic lamp lighting ceremony is conducted, to start the Typography Day activities.
The entire pookolam creation shown above has been captured on a stop animation film which can be viewed from the link below: