Athapookalam, also known as Ona pookalam

onam boat race known as vallamkali

Athapookalam, also known as Ona pookalam, is a prominent and cherished aspect of the Onam festival celebrated in the state of Kerala, India. It refers to the beautiful and intricate floral designs or rangoli made on the floors of homes and other spaces during the ten-day festival of Onam.

The word "Athapookalam" is derived from two Malayalam words - "Atham," which is the first day of the Onam festival, and "pookalam," which means a design or arrangement made with flowers. Hence, Athapookalam marks the beginning of the floral rangoli making tradition on the first day of Onam.

The tradition of creating pookalams is an age-old practice that involves family members, friends, and neighbors coming together to design vibrant and colorful patterns using various types of flowers. Women and children, in particular, play a significant role in crafting these floral designs with enthusiasm and creativity.


Here's how the Athapookalam or Ona pookalam is made:


Day 1: Athapookalam starts on the day of Atham, the first day of the Onam festival. On this day, a small pookalam is made using a few flowers.


Day 2: On the second day, the pookalam is expanded with additional layers of different flowers. The size of the pookalam increases gradually each day.


Days 3 to 9: From the third day onwards, the pookalam grows bigger and more elaborate with intricate designs. Different types of flowers and leaves, including marigolds, chrysanthemums, roses, and leaves of various colors, are used to create vibrant patterns and designs.


Day 10: The final pookalam, known as Thiruvonam pookalam, is the most extensive and beautiful one. It is prepared on the tenth day of Onam, also called Thiruvonam, to welcome King Mahabali back to his kingdom.


Floral Arrangements: The flowers are skillfully arranged in geometric patterns, concentric circles, and other intricate shapes, creating a stunning visual spectacle.


Rituals and Prayers: While making the pookalam, people also offer prayers and sing traditional songs to invoke the blessings of King Mahabali and seek prosperity for their homes and communities.


The making of Athapookalam is not just an artistic expression but also a way to foster community bonding and celebrate the spirit of togetherness during the festival. It is a visual representation of the colorful and joyous atmosphere that surrounds Onam, and the beauty of the pookalams adds to the festive ambiance across Kerala.