Rangoli or Kolam is one of the most popular arts in India. It is actually a kind of decorative motif made by using finely ground white powder, colors and flowers. A Rangoli can be either a wall art as well as floor art. The patterns in a traditional Rangoli are usually derived from nature. The most popular Rangoli motifs are peacocks, swans, mango, flowers, creepers, etc. Traditionally the dyes for the Rangoli are derived from natural like barks of trees, leaves, indigo, rice flour, vermilion and turmeric powder etc. However, these days the use of synthetic dyes has become extremely popular. It is considered auspicious to make a Rangoli or Kolam on the festive occasions. In Kerala, Pookalam, the flower Rangoli is thus made on the occasion of Onam.
Onam is the state festival of Kerala. It is a ten days long festival in which the tenth day, the day of 'Tiruvonam' is considered extremely auspicious and fortunate. Malayalee families all over the world celebrate this occasion with great enthusiasm and gusto. People organize community celebrations and feasts for this occasion. They also decorate their home with flowers and torans. The most important part of Onam celebrations is the 'Onam Kolam' or the 'Pookalam'. Pookalam is very similar to Rangoli; in fact it can be termed as form of Rangoli. 'Poo' means 'flower' and 'Kalam' means artwork. Made of flower and colors, it is a very beautiful decorative motif used as a floor decoration on most of the auspicious occasion.
On the occasion of Onam, Pookalam is made in most of the Malayalee homes. It is basically a colorful arrangement of flowers on the floor. 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. Beautiful motifs are made using these flowers along with naturally derived colors and cowdung.
How is Pookalam Made
For making a Pookalam, first of the entire floor is cleaned and all the dust is wiped out. 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 the hairline bamboo sticks or any pin like material. Generally, the Pookalam is made in ten rings, each representing a 'God'. The flowers are then filled into the pattern made on the cowndung. Flowers that are commonly used in Pookalam include Thumba, Kakka Poovu, Thechipoovu, Mukkutti, Chemparathy, Aripoo or Konginipoo , Hanuman Kireedom and Chethi . Of all these flowers, Thumba flowers are considered the best as they are small in size and glitter in the soft rays of the sun. The design of the Pookolam can be simple or intricate depending upon the choice of the designer. It is generally made at the entrance or veranda of the home.
The Pookalam or floral Rangoli is made on the occasion of Onam in order to auspiciousness to one's home. It is said that King Mahabali whose soul visits the state in the ten days during Onam becomes happy to see these beautiful patterns on the entrance of one's home. Thus, the prosperity and happiness of that home is ensured for along time. Also at some places, the nakshatram of the day is used to be marked on the Pookalam as it stands as the representation of the Nakshatra. As for example on the Moolam day, Pookalam is made with four corners while on Thriketta, the representation of the nakshatram is done by making a protrusion on the circle in the form of a hand. It is also a popular belief that ten rings or steps of the Pookalam represent the ten deities in the Hindu pantheon. First step defines Ganesha, second defines Shiva and Shakti, third defines Shiva, fourth defines Brahma, fifth defines Pancha Boothangal, sixth defines Shanmughan or Muruga, seventh step defines Guru, eighth step is for ashta digpalakar, ninth defines for Indra and tenth defines Lord Vishnu.