A pookalam design is a floral design just like a rangoli, the only difference being that a rangoli is made with powdered colours whereas a pookalam is made with fresh flowers. Infact, one is not allowed to use powdered colours or plastic flowers in order to make a pookalam.
The pookalam design is made early in the morning by the maidens of the house. On the first day of the ten-day period of Onam, only a small design of pookalam is made on the floor at the entrance of the house.
Day by day, this design has to be made bigger and better until the tenth day which is the main day of the festival. Another factor of pookalam is that a particular designated flower has to be used on each day. Each and every flower that is used in a pookalam represents a particular deity from the Hindu mythology.
Young children also take part in creating the designs by helping to pluck and collect the flowers that are needed to make the design from the gardens. Some people who are creatively very good at making such designs do it in very complicated ways which makes them look all the more attractive.
Those who are very artistic and imaginative make pictures on the designs such as a peacock, mango, Lord Krishna, parrots etc. The face of Kathakali is also very common while creating the pookalam designs. They are able to make the designs with the sketch that is already drawn in their minds whereas those who are not so creative need to first draw the sketch on a paper (nowadays designs are made on computer) and then copy it onto the floor as a design made with the flowers.