Dubai: Thousands of Keralites in the UAE celebrated the south-Indian harvest festival of Onam, enjoying Onasadya (Onam feast) yesterday. Many prepared food at home and invited friends and relatives while others savoured the elaborate vegetable meals at restaurants.
Charitable organisations distributed food packets in areas with a heavy population of workers to mark the celebrations. People decorated their homes with Pookalam, a floor artwork, while restaurants and hotels serving the Onam feast were also decked up with floral arrangements and lights.
The Federation of Kerala Colleges Alumni (FEKCA) will give air tickets to five people who just completed their jail term and who were unable to go back home for the festival.
"I prepared the Onam vegetarian lunch at home and invited a few friends for the feast. As it was a Friday, it was easier, I woke up early in the morning to prepare the dishes which involved a lot of chopping and cutting of vegetables. My husband and son helped me, as we made more than ten dishes and served them on banana leaves. Having the Onasadya at home is a tradition I want to continue," said Smitha B., a Dubai-based expatriate.
Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham) which corresponds with August-September. ‘Atham', the first day of the festival and ‘Thiruonam', the tenth day are considered to be the most important days of this festival which brings out the rich cultural heritage of Kerala in its best form and spirit.
Onasadya, the grand feast, is prepared on ‘Thiruonam' and is traditionally a nine-course meal consisting of 11 to 13 dishes. It is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal.
Hotels and restaurants offered special dishes for the occasion. "We had 28 items on the menu for the feast today and these included rassam, payassam, sambar, avial, thoran, pachadi, kichhdi, pulisheri, erusheri, kutucurry, pachacurry, olan, sakara varatiyathu and many more. There was a heavy rush," said Nitin Kawade, general manager, President Hotel in Karama.
"We also got a lot of orders for takeaways from people who want to enjoy the feast at home. At our hotel it's a three-day celebration and we have decorated the restaurant in a traditional way," he said.
"We distributed about 200 packets in the Al Quoz areas, so that everyone is a part of the celebration," said Juby Kuruvilla, president of FEKCA.
Various community organisations have been organising entertainment events. Some organisations will host celebrations in the coming weeks.
"Today we are hosting a number of entertainment programmes including classical dances in the Al Quoz Mall as part the celebrations," said Habib Rahman, managing director of Benchmark Media, that organised a four-day carnival at the mall.
The Indian Association Sharjah will be celebrating on October 7. "We are organising a cultural programme where dancer Shobana will be performing. We have arranged for a feast for more than 8,000 people," said K. Balakrishnan, president of the association.
The Indian Community Welfare Community (ICWC) will also host the celebrations next week.