Importance of Athapookalam designs for Onam festival

Read this article on the importance of Athapookalam designs for Onam festival. One of the important activities the Malayali people undertake during the Onam celebrations is the creation of floral designs to welcome the Onathappan to their homes and offices. During the celebrations, it has become a norm to create highly intricate floral designs at public places.

Atha Pookalam

The special highlight of Onam festival is the floral rangoli or pookalam. Normally tons of flowers of different colours and hues are used to create highly intricate designs. At the centre of the floral design, the triangular statue representing the Onathappan or Lord Vamana is installed and the vilakkukal or lamps are then lit on all four sides. This has been going on for many generations as part of the rituals. This is done every year to welcome the holy spirit of the demon King Mahabali at the time of Onam festival. It is believed that the demon King comes and sits inside this statue on the invitation of his subjects.

Modern-day Pookalam

However, there has been a new trend coming up amongst the urban classes across the state at the time of Onam celebrations. The houses, the junctions and offices also create these floral designs during the Onam celebrations. Even the design competitions are organized to motivate the people to come out with excellent floral designs. The ladies and gents in traditional dress come prepared for the laying of floral designs. They sit together in groups and make a design of what they would do with the flowers. Later they clean the place where they want to lay the floral design and welcome the beloved Maharajah of the bygone era. Using the chalk, they draw the design on the floor. A large number of flowers of various types such as thumbapoo, arippu, mukkutti, chethi and Hanuman Kireedam are used to create the floral designs. With the passage of time, the inanimate object designs have crept in the making of floral rangoli patterns. These flowers are mostly scented to increase the aura of goodwill in the surroundings.

Designs and Colours Commonly Used

Most of the designs include any combination of motifs like flowers, mangoes, peacock and other birds found in the countryside that are beautiful. Besides these, the colouring is done using thumpapoo to offer vibrant white colour. It is believed that the white colour is the favourite colour of Lord Shiva. Even Maharajah Mahabali is the staunch disciple of Lord Shiva. Hence, he also likes the white colour of this flower. The intricacies of designs and the size of pookalam increase with time. In the early days of Onam, the floral designs are simple to look at. As the days progress, the pattern and colour combination become more complex. Apart from white, yellow, another shade of yellow, orange, green and purple are used to generate patterns. For instance, a variety of flowers are used on the sixth day or thriketta day of 10-day Onam festival. On that day, the design mostly would consist of a star or nakshatram. On the seventh day, the pookkalam gets a unique shape. It would have four corners that add to the appeal and complexity of the design. Mostly the green colour is given by the tree leaves.

Athapookalam Designs

Based on the design concept and the flowers used, the floral designs can be classified as some of the following types. By following some of these design concepts, you can quickly make a pookalam at your doorstep.

  1. Simple Design: It is based on the flower shape in the middle. The flower is usually located in the middle of the circular shape. Moreover, the use of various colours for petals makes it more appealing.

  2. Assymmetric Design: It is called Diya design. Since it is not usual symmetric design, its shape would be unique. This kind of designs is created to place the lighted lamps along the periphery of the design.

  3. Vivid Designs: These designs make use of multicoloured flower petals. The different colours like green, saffron, yellow, purple and white colour provide a deep sense of a visual hue to the round floral design.

  4. Generic Design: Some designs speak for themselves as they have multiple colours and patterns that add more appeal. This design has flowers coloured in bright pink, white, lavender, green, yellow, etc. This blend of colours and design mesmerizes the heart of the onlookers.

  5. Flowery Design: This type of design is shaped like a flower itself. The use of commonly found flowers helps the designers to come out with outstanding designs. The red and white design in the middle is also very pretty to look at.


Floral designs are made to welcome the demon King Mahabali who used to rule this state a long time back. His reign had helped his subjects to prosper in life and there was no sign of robbery or lie in their minds. Hence, people would like to welcome him with a floral carpet at their entrances. This concept has been transformed in the modern times. More creativity has crept in over the period of years. Now this concept is used to showcase the creative talents latent in the minds of people. As a result, it has begun to appear in festivities at home, offices and other public places. Now-a-days, the organizers have introduced the competition to bring out the best of creativities in the form of floral designs.

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