Video Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

Dubai: Indian expats from the south Indian state of Kerala are “drumming up” the community spirit for the 10-day Onam festival.

The festival symbolising unity culminates on Thiruvonam Day, which falls on Wednesday (September 11) this year.

However, celebrations by Malayali expats in the UAE go on for several months as they organise get-togethers over the weekends stretching up to December. There are an estimated one million Keralites in the UAE.

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Malayali children in Dubai form a pookkalam (floral design on the floor) as part of Onam celebrations. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

Several community groups and associations called off the celebrations last year after devastating floods in the state. This year, most community groups have booked large venues for the celebrations.

On Thiruvonam Day, celebrations include a procession welcoming King Mahabali accompanied by chenda (cylindrical drum) performances. Competitions in pookkalam (floral designs on the floor), traditional performances as well as shows by popular artistes from Kerala headline Onam celebrations in the UAE.

The highlight of all Onam celebrations, however, is the Onasadhya, a traditional vegetarian feast served on banana leaves.

Events galore

On Friday, Malayalis from across Dubai will celebrate Onam at Al Nasr Leisureland.

“We have a group of young girls also performing along with professional chenda players. Their first performance was held last Friday as part of the run up to our celebrations which will be attended by 4000 people,” said Rajan Mahi, a convener.

The Indian Association Sharjah will celebrate Onam at the Sharjah Expo Centre on November 15, said its president E.P. Johnson. “We are expecting more than 17,000 people to take part in the day-long grand celebrations,” he said.

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Students pose near a swing during Onam celebrations, in Nagercoil of Kanyakumari district Image Credit: PTI

AKGMA Social Club, a residential group of Malayalis in Al Khail Gate and surrounding areas, has scheduled its celebrations on October 11, said Kishor Babu, president of the club licensed by the Community Development Authority. “We are helping members get an Onam kit to make sadhya at home for Thiruvonam. We will be serving sadhya to 1,200 people,” he said.

Retailers in the UAE have imported tonnes of fruits and vegetables that Malayalis need to prepare sadhya. There is a huge rush for these items as also for the ethnic wear — set munduز

Restaurants preparing sadhya have also reported a large number of bookings and pre-orders as Thiruvonam Day is a working day this year.

What is Onam?

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Malayali expats shop for vegetables and flowers for Onam celebrations in Dubai. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

The harvest festival heralds the homecoming of Hindu mythological King Mahabali during whose reign Kerala is believed to have witnessed its golden era.

Symbolising unity, Onam is celebrated on the first 10 days of the Chingam month in the Malayalam calendar, which usually falls in August or September.