“Poove Poli Poove Poove!” The rustling of the trees plays music to my ears as the wind caresses the Thekkinkaadu maidanam. As I stroll through the serene ground centring the Swaraj Round of Thrissur, the Vadakumnaathan and Paramekkavu temples on the right and left respectively, stand tall as if they were witnesses to the happenings on the ground.
The open ground once used to be a dense forest home to wild animals. It was also a notorious spot for the execution of wanted criminals of Thrissur. It was the Maharaja Of Cochin, Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran, who cleared Thekkinkaadu Maidanam. Currently, under the supervision of the Cochin Devaswom Board, the Thekkinkaadu Maidan is a major hotspot for various important festivals of the city, including the historic Thrissur Pooram.
While I gaze around the place, the smell of marigolds and chrysanthemums brush against my nose. Little stalls selling a charming array of various flowers surround the ground. The greenery around is in perfect contrast to this colourful display, adding an aesthetic filter to the perfect evening. Kerala is ready to welcome yet another season of Onam. Sailing through ten days of traditional Pookalam and other rituals, gods own country garlands itself with the beautiful flower season. The Pookalam; a ritualistic Rangoli made with flowers that people assemble in front of houses to welcome Maveli, the much-adored Asura king. Flower markets across the state blossom with an elegant collection as Malayalis prepare for their ten days of Onapookalam.
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The mountains of flowers on the ground soon reduce to molehills due to the high demand; the busy crowd rushing to purchase flowers for their perfect little Pookalams. Balsams, Mukkuti, Jammanthi and Chendumalli are usually the first ones to stock out. Kits of ₹ 100 each consisting of a mixed variety of flowers are also a hot pick among many. The shopkeepers are equally enthusiastic in inviting the crowd by decorating their stalls with an eye-catching display of flowers.
“All the flowers are freshly picked from Tamil Nadu. My workers have been associated with me for ten plus years and take extreme care in keeping the flowers fresh,“ says Mr Shine, a makeup artist by profession who has been running the flower business in Thekkinkaadu Maidanam for 20 years now.
Most shopkeepers have in-depth knowledge about every flower, owing to their years of experience with some of them even entering the business at the young ages of 10 and 12.
“I started selling flowers when I was 12. I am 52 now. Even after 40 years, the Onam season is what I look forward to the most in a year. These ten days of sale are really important to me and my family,” says Aashan from Valancherry.
As Covid cases continue to rise in Kerala, the flower business has taken a hit. The number of stalls has been cut down to align with the Covid protocols. This has adversely affected the shop owners and shop keepers. As I bid goodbye and grabbed a kit of flowers, Aashan gave me a wonderful smile and wished me luck and happiness. I turned around holding the fresh flowers praying the same for him and hundreds like him.