The Hindu MetroPlus Pookkalam Contest sees intricate, geometric patterns as well as those depicting Kerala’s culture

Tradition has it that people from Kerala spend the morning of Onam, on all 10 days, making intricate designs of flowers in their courtyard to welcome their king Mahabali. Legend has it that Mahabali visits his people every year during the harvest festival.

The king would have found plenty to smile about if he had dropped in at The Hindu MetroPlus Pookkalam Contest, held at the Vivanta by Taj, M.G. Road, here on Sunday.

With 13 teams vying for the top prize, the staid floor morphed into a bed of creativity with bright and beautiful patterns. While some teams prepared elaborate and symmetric patterns, others used flowers to depict Kerala and its colourful culture.

Joining the tradition

Interestingly, it wasn’t only Malayalis who participated in the contest. Many teams were made up of people who simply came to participate in this colourful tradition.

The loudest applause was reserved for a group of students with disabilities from the Sheila Kothavala Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. People looked on as they communicated and coordinated with each other through sign language, and came up with a design that was meticulously executed and vibrant. The crowd broke into spontaneous applause when the team of four walked away with a special prize.

Winners

Finishing first in the contest was a team led by Sumathy Thankappan, who won the first prize for a traditional pookalam.

Ms. Thankappan said she had been practising this art for several years and had won several awards. “It brings together family and friends to celebrate the occasion,” she said.

The members of her team — Roopa Madhu, Bindu Sudeesh, Seena and Thankappan — have been living in Bangalore for many years.

The second prize was won by Shaila R. and her team, comprising her family members Vimal Krishnan P., Anuraj P., Saritha and Vijaya.

The third prize went to Bhavana Jayani and team, comprising Ganga Jayant, Bhavaneeth Krishnan and Aditya Jayant.

The consolation prizes were bagged by teams led by Katyayani Basavaraj, Jintu Ajith and Tharani.

A group of teachers from R.T. Nagar Public School were all dressed in traditional white Kerala saris with crisp gold borders. Though their pookkalam didn’t make it to the top three, they won an award for being the best-dressed team at the event.

Kathyayani Basavaraj’s team won the prize for the most colourful pookkalam.

The first prize is a free stay for two at the Taj Kovalam for two nights and three days. The rest of the team members will get a free Onam Sadya on August 29 at Vivanta by Taj.

The second prize winners are entitled to a lunch buffet at Café Mozaic at Vivanta by Taj; the team placed third will get to feast on 2 kg of chocolate gateaux and a large pizza. Gift hampers were given to all participants.

The prizes were sponsored by Megamart, Himalaya, Bisleri, Rajasthan Handicrafts and Just Books.

The competition was judged by V.K. Vijayan, T.A. Raghavan and Krishnan Nambiar.

Enthusiastic

Malayalam songs and a quiz contest about Kerala’s culture and heritage added to the festive atmosphere.

Vinod Valsan, general manager, Vivanta by Taj, said: “There is a large Malayali community in Bangalore. I am amazed to see the enthusiasm among people. We hope to continue this tradition every year.”

Mr. Nambiar said: “This is an opportunity for a get-together and a colourful celebration.”

Cultural showcase

Hena C. and her colleagues decided to participate in the contest to “showcase [their] culture”.

She said, “Most people are forgetting our culture. Competitions like these will encourage people.”

Anu Lakshmi, another participant, said she spent close to four hours in the city market handpicking the flowers. “I made sure to pick flowers in different colours. This is what makes the pookkalam appealing.”

Prabha R. Girimaji who had come to watch the participants said the turnout for the competition highlighted the secular nature of the Onam festival.