Vinod and his team are hard pressed for time when Onam is round the corner.

But when it comes to arranging pookkalams — an activity that keeps them busy during the entire festive season — they are never rushed.

The team, Varnaraji, from Oachanthuruthu in Vypeen proved it yet again as it pipped 43 teams to emerge winners in their debut at Parle-The Hindu MetroPlus Pookkalam Contest powered by SBT held at Nucleus Mall in Maradu on Thursday.

The victory was yet another addition to the numerous titles the team has won over the last two decades with their exemplary time management skill and ability to come up with innovative designs, factors that are decisive in pookkalam contests.

The team put up a visually impressive floral design that was rich in colours and perfectly executed. Flowers were so thickly arranged in the centre of the design that T.R. Upendranath, one of the two judges, said it gave the feel of floral balloons remaining suspended in the air.

“We have been contesting in pookkalam contests for the last 20 years and have won first prize three consecutive times at Atham celebrations in Tripunithura,” said Vinod.

The team used flowers worth Rs. 1,500 for arranging the prize-winning pookkalam, besides using leaves and even water hyacinth.

Seasoned campaigner

Team Vismaya, which won the second prize, also emerged to be a seasoned campaigner in pookkalam contest circles. “We have got another three to four contests lined up,” said team leader Surendran as he led his team out of the venue.

Though it came only third, the pookkalam arranged by Skaria and party from Eloor, impressed the judges the most for its innovativeness. The team managed to depict the legend of Onam and various festivities associated with it, in addition to the myth about the formation of Kerala, on plantain leaves over the traditionally arranged pookkalam. “I have been toying with the concept for sometime. We decided on a rather simple design to save time while executing this concept,” Skaria said. The team had won the first prize in The Hindu MetroPlus pookkalam contest in the past.

Novel designs

The competition stood out for its enthusiastic participation of teams and their innovative designs. One team florally arranged renowned painter Raja Ravi Varma’s famous painting of the lady with the fruit basket.

While most teams were fiercely competing to emerge winners, two teams enjoyed their participation in the event. Teams of Bengali and Rajasthani communities had their members turn up in their traditional attires.

“I am really excited about the entire event. Though we didn’t win any prize it helped us understand the local culture and the legend behind Onam,” said Ritthika, a member of the Rajasthani team. The Parent-Teacher Association of Rajagiri Christu Jayanthi Public School was another unique participant.

As the contest was nearing completion, ‘Mahabali’ entered the hall to the tune of drum beats and strolled around, taking in the finishing touches given by contestants. The festive spirit reached the next level with the ‘Parle biscuit crunch contest’ that saw enthusiastic participation by women and children.

More In: Kochi