Flower power


Kongini or Lantana
Kongini or Lantana

Onam is also known as the ‘Festival of Rain Flowers’ for a reason. Find out the flowers that are important when making the Onam Pookkalam


Nisthula Nagarajan

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Published: Thu 19 Aug 2021, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 6 Oct 2022, 2:56 PM

Many activities are signature to Onam, like the ‘Vallam Kali’ (boat races), regional dance forms like 'Thiruvathirai', ‘Pulikali‘ (the tiger dances), ‘Kummattikali‘ (mask dances), a presentation of ‘Onathallu‘ (martial arts) along with ‘Onavillu‘ (music), and many, many more.

One of the activities that Malayalis partake in no matter where they are in the world is the Onam Pookalam, which literally means ‘the patterns made with flower petals’. The combination of colours and flowers and the designs created out of them looks absolutely breathtaking. This is one thing that everyone, from toddler to grandmother indulge in. ‘Poo’ means flower and ‘Kalam’ means artwork.

Throughout the ten days of the Onam festival, new Pookalams are made every single day outside the entrance of the home.

Usually, the Onam Pookalam is made in a circular shape and then filled with intricate detailing of colourful flower petals. One can find several designs for inspiration online. This is so popular, that several other cultures within India also decorate their homes for special occasions with flower rangolis, giving every home a bright and vibrant atmosphere. Numerous kinds of flowers are used to create a beautiful Pookalam, and the Pookalam starts from Atham (the first day) and ends at Thiruvonam (the tenth day) to mirror the good old days during King Mahabali’s reign. Nowadays, pookalam design competitions are also held all over Kerala at schools, colleges, offices etc.,

Certain flowers are used for the designs as well so here’s a list of flowers that you can fill your beautiful flower arrangements with. You can get these flowers easily from your nearest flower market or they may be growing in your neighbours garden.

DIY Onam Pookalam

Select a design that is suited to your level of expertise/

Sketch out your Pookalam design on cellophane paper with a marker or over a large chart paper. Make sure, the size of the paper is equal to the size of your desired Pookalam.

Fill out your chosen colours over the detailing.

Shop or pluck out for the different flowers.

Then place your paper Pookalam design on the area where you would like to place it.

Separate the flower petals and start filling your Onam pookalam as you have designed to impress all who visit your home during this festive season.

Decorate with rangoli powder and/or oil lamps.

Remember, practice makes perfect!

Thumba or Ceylon Slitwort

A tiny white flower, which is the very essence of the Onam festivities. On the day of Atham, the pookalam consists of only these flowers.


The green colour of the Tulsi doesn’t just make the rangoli look colourful and vibrant but also makes the premises fragrant and serene. Tulsi is unavoidable in the Onam Pookalam for its green hue. It adds to the fragrance and its calming properties make the premises serene. You can grow your own pot in your garden or balcony.

Kongini or Lantana

Smaller in size and being the traditional Athapoo flowers, Kongini flowers are loved by all. They come in a wide range of colours like red, blue, orange, yellow and white.

Chethi or Flame of the Woods

The vivid rouge colour gives a feisty feel to the Onam Pookalam. Whenever, red is needed these are the go-to flowers. It is known to be the official Onam flower as it adds its charm to the whole rings of the floral rangoli, giving it its eye-catching quality.

Jamanthi or Marigold

Playing a crucial part in athapookalam, Marigold flowers or Jamanthi, as it is referred to colloquially, is another integral flower for Onam festivities. It comes in many hues like yellow, white, red and orange, all of which gives a charming look to a pookalam. They comprise dozens of tiny petals that make the floret, which are removed from the stalk and sprinkled onto the design.


A very common flower used in Kerala for Onam Pookalam purposes due to its large petals, which cover more area, and scent, which creates a fresh ambience. They are white in colour and the person who is crafting the pookalam just needs to pluck and place it on their design for assured beauty of their work of art.

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