Flowers have been part of Kerala lifestyle probably from the days people began to settle here. This land of greenery is naturally home to an innumerable variety of flowers.
During the ten days of Onam festival (during August-September), flowers are gathered and arranged in pleasing patterns (pic right)in the frontyard of houses in Kerala. This traditional Hindu festival has now been turned into a state festival and you could find the traditional flower patterns everywhere, including offices and educational institutions, during the Onam season.
Vishu, the festival welcoming the coming year, uses the golden flowers of konna tree in a display (pic left). The display is arranged the previous night, and one person stumbles to it before dawn next morning to light the golden lamp. As the lamp is lit, she would see the splendor that awaits her next year. Then she goes and wakes other family members, telling them not to open their eyes, and guides them to the display. When they open their eyes, they too see the golden splendors awaiting each of them.
Then there is the thiruvathira festival, when it is considered that wearing the flowers or leaves of ten specific plants (dasa pushpa) brings good fortune to women.
In temples, devotees often make arrangements for special prayers using flowers. The chethi flowers (pic right) have special significanace in temple rituals. Temple priests distribute prasadam (that include flowers) to devotees, signifying that the deity is pleased with their devotion.
Flowers were thus an integral part of the traditional Kerala lifestyle.
These days, there are flower shows, flower garlands for public receptions and marriages, flowers strung together for wearing in women's hair, flower hangings on special occasions and flower gardens in people's homes.
Flower shows are regular events that attract people from all religions. These are generally organized in urban centers where people from suburbs come for work and entertainment. The shows also serve as fairs for selling flower plants, seeds and garden implements. Pic on left shows ornamental plants arranged under a branching tree on a flower show ground.
Then of course there are the home gardens, with their ubiquitous hibiscus (pics at beginning) and ornamental plants, and other flowers and plants of each gardener's choice.
There might be orchids, or the strange pala flower (pic left) of the tree on which supernatural spirits are supposed to reside. Or the yellow variety of the chethi (pic below, left) or strange flowers whose names even the gardener might not know. The variety of flowers in this land is "innumerable" (to repeat the cliche) and it would take a whole volume to review even a sample.
Let us conclude with a look at the kani konna in full flowering bloom (pic right). The konna tree in full golden bloom is an exhilarating sight. One or two bunches of these flowers are used in the vishu display that we saw earlier. The tree in bloom does indeed convey an impression of prosperity!
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