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Around the world in a floral carpet

Posted September 4th, 2017, 12:36 PM IST

Around the world in a floral carpet

Flower carpets are not unique to Kerala alone. In fact, flowers are the focus of a variety of festivals world over. When thinking about Onam, the first thought that crosses our mind would be the Pookalam. Legend has it that this floral carpet is made to welcome King Mahabali, who comes to visit his subjects. There was a time when flowers were abundant in Kerala and children would go out to pluck them to make a pookalam. The pookalam would get bigger with each day until it took a new form on Thiruvonam day. Things have changed today as a good majority depend on flowers in the market. There is no Onam without flowers for Malayalis.

Huge floral carpet made by the staff and students of Albertian Institute of Science and Technology (AISAT) as part of Onam celebration in Kalamassery. (Photo: SUNOJ NINAN MATHEW)
Huge floral carpet made by the staff and students of Albertian Institute of Science and Technology (AISAT) as part of Onam celebration in Kalamassery. (Photo: SUNOJ NINAN MATHEW)

But, flowers and designs are not ours alone. They play an integral part in other cultures too. The ‘Flower Carpet of Brussels’ is an instance. It is made during the spring season in Belgium. The only difference is that instead of homes, they make it on the streets. It is a biennial event. The tradition began in 1971 and has been a great affair at the Grand Place since 1986. The 2018 flower carpet will have as much as six lakh flowers.

The Songkran festival of Thailand is another one. It takes place during New Year and is observed for five days. The word Songkran is derived from the Sanskrit word Samkranti, which means transformation or change. The Songran fest is in many ways similar to Onam. It begins with the merit making, a practice to invite goodness. Then, people, who dress in traditional Thai clothes, visit local temples and offer food to the Buddhist monks. It is also the time when family members come together and rejoice. Like our Onam games, they have water fights where participants splash water on each other. They even organise contests to select Miss Songkran.

Spello’s Infiorate
Spello’s Infiorate

In Japan, flower plays a role during Hana-Matsuri (Buddha Poornima), which falls on April 8. Formally known as Kanbutsue, memorial services are performed at temples on that day. They decorate buildings on the streets with flowers and place Buddha figurines inside temples.

The Panagbenga festival at Baguio in the Philippines stemmed from the vision of having an own ‘fiesta’ for the city. The festival, which is akin to our Athachamayam, includes floats that are covered with flowers, street dances by dancers clad in flower-inspired costumes.

Spello’s Infiorate in Italy is another floral delight. Done as part of the Corpus Domini feast, thousands of people gather on the narrow lanes to make floral carpets. The origin of this tradition cannot be traced. It is said the tradition began with throwing flowers during the procession and that gradually developed into placing them on the pavement like an art form.

Besides Kerala, flower festivals and colourful designs can be seen in other parts of the country too. The Boishakh fest of Bengalis and Rangolis that appear in various names as Kolam (Tamil Nadu), Mandana (Rajasthan), Chowkpurana (Chhattisgarh), Alpana (West Bengal), Aripana (Bihar), Chowk Pujan (Uttar Pradesh) and Muggulu (Andhra Pradesh) are a few.

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