The seventh edition of Parle-The Hindu MetroPlus Pookkalam Contest was an awesome experience for participants and visitors alike

“Nobody does a pookkalam contest like The Hindu. Like always it was simply awesome. I always enjoy participating in the contest and we participants always get a lot of support from the organisers,” said young Greeshma A., a self-proclaimed veteran of many pokkalams and a third-time participant of The Hindu MetroPlus Pookkalam contest. The seventh edition of the popular contest was held at the auditorium of the Government College for Women on September 14.

Indeed, the day was all about fun, flowers and Onam camaraderie. To the beats of the chenda melam and overseen by a snazzy Maveli, 51 teams of five members each, many of them dressed to the nines in traditional Kerala attire, matching blouses and jasmine in their hair, battled it out for the top spot by weaving together exquisite floral carpets. “As it always is, this year too the competition was very tough,” said Prajisha C. Babu, a member of the SBI team, that won last year’s contest.

Marigolds, roses and asters of different colours, bachelor’s buttons, tube roses, coxcombs, jasmine, and the leaves of red amaranthus, seemed to be the flowers of choice for the teams. Said Ajayakumar, former principal of the College of Fine Arts, Kerala, and chief of jury for the contest: “Although one wished to see more of traditional flowers (such as thumbapoo, ixora, and so on) in the pookkalams, it was a tough choice as many teams had innovative designs that incorporated traditional elements. The standard of the pookkalams was rather high.” Sreejith R. Kumar, The Hindu’s in-house designer, who was also part of the jury added: “We judged the pookkalams based on innovativeness, play of shading and finishing.”

While the judging was in progress the teams were treated to scrumptious biriyani and they and their children had a chance to participate in a biscuit crunching contest.

Eventually, after some thorough deliberation, the team from Kerala Legislative Secretariat walked away with the first prize with much applause and cheer, while the SBI team came a close second. Team Hastham won the third prize.

In fact, many of the visitors to the event too couldn’t stop gushing about the collection of pookkalams. M.P. Govindakumar, a regular visitor to the event over the years, seemed to like them all so much that he was busy taking pictures of each pookkalam that caught his fancy on his smartphone. “Many teams have woven pookkalams in interesting geometric patterns within the traditional circular shape,” he says. “It’s fantastic,” says Lakshmanan H., a bank employee, who has come to check out the pookkalams during his lunch break. In the words of Maria who is on a trip to Kerala from Hamburg, Germany: “The floral carpets are absolutely amazing…all the colours, the creativity. There is nothing like this back home. It is out of this world. Seeing all this and the joie de vivre in the air takes me back to a happy place –my childhood.”