One of the major attractions that make Onam unique is the flower carpet (Pookkalam) laid before the front courtyards of Malayalee houses. These are intricate designs which make every house vibrant and colourful.
Various flowers are used each day as specific flowers are dedicated to each day of Onam. Among these ‘Thumba Poo’ gains its importance from the fact that it was the favourite flower of Lord Shiva and King Mahabali, the king on whose memory the festival is celebrated was a devout worshipper of Lord Shiva.
Besides, these white, small flowers reflect the radiance of the sun and make the Pookalam more enchanting. Other commonly used flowers include Thumba (Lucas Aspera), Kakka Poovu, Thechipoovu, Mukkutti (little tree plant), Chemparathy, (shoe flower), Aripoo or Konginipoo (Lantana), Hanuman Kireedam (Red pagoda plant) and Chethi (lxora).
On the following day of Thiruvonam, Pookalam is decorated with Thumba flowers, which remains so for another 15 days. On the 15th day called ‘Ayilyam’, Pookalam is again decorated. The day ‘Magam’, comes next when the Pookalam is given a cut in its four corners with a knife which marks the end of Pookalam decorations for the year. Erection of a small, well-decorated pandal over the completed flower carpet is yet another tradition.
The creation of this vibrant floral art is in itself a colourful and joyous experience for the participants as well as the spectators. Being a team effort, it helps to generate a feeling of togetherness and goodwill amongst the people.