Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Because the festival falls on a working day, many expatriates will continue to celebrate Onam at the weekend.
Because the festival falls on a working day, many expatriates will continue to celebrate Onam at the weekend.

Indians in UAE work up appetite for Onam festival

The Indian festival of Onam is celebrated with floral arrangements, food and fanfare.

DUBAI // Mohan Kumar has taken one day off work for each of the past 23 years to make floral designs and cook a grand feast for Onam.

Today will be no different when he gets together with his wife, children and extended family in Sharjah to celebrate the harvest festival that reflects a similar commemoration in his native Kerala.

"We will go to the temple in the morning," said Mr Kumar, 45, a public relations officer.

"We will prepare the Onam sadhya [traditional feast] and make the flower pookalam [floral designs]. I take leave every Onam. Even as a bachelor, I used to take the day off and gather a few friends to cook."

The festival commemorates the legend of King Mahabali, who is said to visit Kerala every year at the time of Onam. Celebrants make welcoming feasts for him.

Onam also signifies the start of Chingam, the first month of the Malayalam calendar, and is marked by intricately designed flower carpets, elaborate lunches and boat races.

When Mr Kumar was a child in Kerala, the 10-day festival was celebrated with much gusto.

"A week before Onam, we used to walk several kilometres to find flowers. Since there were no refrigerators back then, we'd keep them in water to ensure they were fresh. During the festival, we'd place the flowers to decorate every step in the house," he said.

Many expatriates will also meet friends and family to honour King Mahabali's return to his kingdom.

"We'll start early morning to make the pookalam," said Satish Menon, who works in Dubai. "I'll be working today but I'll join the festivities in the night."

Because the festival falls on a working day, many expatriates such as Mr Menon will continue to celebrate Onam at the weekend. "This weekend will be with friends and family," he said.

The revelry will extend to labour camps at the weekend, when companies organise events for staff.

"There will be some songs and some cultural events," said Rathnakaran, an electrician who lives at the Sonapur labour camp. "Our company will prepare lunch for us. The mood is more celebratory here than in India because here I am with my friends, company staff and, importantly, people from different countries, who join us."

Onam, a Hindu festival, cuts across religious backgrounds.

Aziz Abdulla and his family join their Hindu friends to decorate their homes and share a meal. "Every year we celebrate the event," said Mr Abdulla, a businessman. "We wear the mundu, veshti [traditional attire] and my children wear the pavada. We tell the children the importance of Onam. We keep pookalam and help in cooking."

A number of restaurants are preparing for the Onam rush.

"We are expecting over 300 guests for the Onam Sadhya," said Sreejit, a representative of Kerala Kitchen in Karama. "We will serve 24 varieties today and tomorrow. But, since it's midweek, we expect more people on Friday."

The weekend lunch will be a slightly smaller meal with 15 varieties, he said. The restaurant expects more than 800 parcel orders over the two days.

Supermarkets are also trying to woo customers with decorations and discount offers on flowers, fruits and vegetables.

The LuLu hypermarket in Abu Dhabi's Al Wahda Mall has made its floral design with fruits and vegetables from 23 countries. About 400kg of fruits and vegetables, including Australian carrots, Chinese mandarins, local cucumbers, South African lemons, Spanish capsicum, and US and Chilean apples, have been used in the arrangement.

Cultural events are being organised across the Emirates. The Country Club will host South Indian actors and singers in Abu Dhabi on September 6 at the National Theatre, and on September 8 at Dubai World Trade Centre.

pkannan@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 An Egyptian Orthodox Christian priest give communion during the Palm Sunday service inCairo, Egypt. Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP

Region in focus - April 18, 2014

The best images of the last seven days from around the Gulf and across the Middle East.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National