I am excited to share with you these images of an Indian floral art form called Pookolam which is “floral artwork”. I had never seen a Pookalam until this week when I stopped by my friend Veena and Mani’s home for their annual Navratri Golu celebrations.
Every year Mani and Veena put on an elaborate and gorgeous display of mythological Indian dolls and souvenirs for their Golu display, but this year Veena had gone further to create a beautiful Pookalam or flower art for the occasion.
Pookalam are created in the Southern Indian state of Kerala during their fall-harvest festival. As the tradition of Pookalam practice goes, the flower art is made with fresh petals, flowers and leaves just for one day with the following day a new Pookalam floral art painted with newly picked fresh flowers and leaves.
In the Southern state of Kerala Pookalam or the flower carpet or rangoli marks the festival of Onam which is a 10-day harvest festival typically observed in late August/September. ‘Poo’ means ‘flower’ and ‘Kalam’ means artwork. Pookalam is a colorful artwork made with colored powder and flowers. Pookalam is an important part of the Onam celebrations during which time Malyalee families all over the world decorate the entrance to their homes with Pookalam floral art.
A festival of flower carpets. Onam harvest festival
“As a small child growing up in Kerala, Onam was a magical time — filled with creativity, exploration and togetherness. Every morning, my older sister and I would accompany children from our residential colony to pick flowers for our Pookalam (flower carpet). The small whitethumbapooor Ceylon slitwort which grew in the neighbourhood was a favourite. We always included other native flowers like thechembarathi also known as hibiscus that now comes in red, maroon, pale pink and yellow; the flaming redchethi (ixora) and thejamanthi (yellow and white chrysanthemums).
But gathering the flowers was just the beginning. We also used to carefully collect leaves in different shades ranging from brownish purple and magenta, to light and dark green. Then, all of us children would sit together and arrange the flowers in simple and often, concentric designs with help from the adults. The leaves cut into various sizes would add balance and richness to our Pookalam.
Traditionally the festival is a celebration of the end-of-harvest season. An agrarian society Kerala used to be a land of paddy fields and farmers and Onam is when the people of the state would rejoice in the period between a good harvest and the beginning of the next sowing season.” source: The festival of flower carpets. Pookalam
Though traditionally this unique floral art has been mostly practiced in the state of Kerala, it has become popular in other parts of India today and especially so during the fall festival season such as the recently celebrated Navratri festival.
On the Sunday evening that we visited Veena had created a peacock Pookalam just that morning. The body of the peacock was created with vibrant blue colored powdered sand and the long plumes of the peacock were made with fresh picked flowers, petals and leaves from Veena’s garden. Truly a spectacular piece of art this was!! Such beauty in nature depicted in a tapestry of colors in a floral art piece. Just exquisite.
I recognized a few of the petals and leaves on this floral art piece. Fuchsia blossoms, rose petals, marigold blooms, lantana flowers, dahlia petals, variegated geranium leaves, coleus leaves, and pittosporum leaves.
I hope you enjoyed reading about this unique floral art form called Pookalam as much as I enjoyed discovering the cultural significance and beauty of this art medium. I would like to wrap this post with these images of beautiful red, pink and coral colored blossoms floating on gorgeous brass urns at the entrance to my friend Veena and Mani’s home.
by Rabindranath Tagore
O my love, what gift of mine
Shall I give you this dawn?
A morning song?
But morning does not last long—
The heat of the sun
Wilts like a flower
And songs that tire
O friend, when you come to my gate.
What is it you ask?
What shall I bring you?
Whatever gifts are in my power to give you,
Be they flowers,
When you have leisure,
Wander idly through my garden in spring
And let an unknown, hidden flower’s scent startle you
Into sudden wondering—
Let that displaced moment
Be my gift.
Friend, whatever you take of it,
On your own,
Without asking, without knowing, let that
Be it a flower.
Have a great weekend everybody!