Dubai: Indian expats in the UAE celebrated Onam with fervour, even as the Hindu temple in Jebel Ali completed its first anniversary today.
An annual harvest festival, largely observed by those from the south Indian state of Kerala, Onam is marked by much gaiety and colour, with elaborate Pookalams (floral carpets) and sumptuous Onam Sadhyas (traditional Kerala meals served on a banana leaf) being an integral part of the celebrations.
First Onam in UAE
Roshni Udhayan, a newly married expat from Kerala, dressed in a Kasavu (traditional cream cotton saree with a golden border), said, “It brings me immense joy to celebrate Onam here in the UAE, especially as this marks my first Onam after getting married to my wonderful husband Udhayan."
She said, "Even though I am away from my hometown, the spirit of Onam transcends borders and fills our hearts with unity and happiness. As we create a Pookalam and savour the traditional Onam Sadhya, I am reminded of the cherished moments back home. May this festival bring us the vibrant colours of togetherness and the sweet taste of love to all.”
Animol Bonny, another Indian expat, said, “Onam is very special to me, my husband Jose Bonny Thomas and sons Noel and Emmanuel. We are three groups of friends who have been coming together for Onam in the UAE for the last 20 years."
She said, "Though we are away from home, we have been able to convey the spirit of the celebrations to our children, some of whom have been carrying on the tradition of celebrating Onam with friends even after flying the nest.”
Temple receives 1.65m visitors
Meanwhile, as the Hindu temple completed its first anniversary today, hundreds of devotees visited the shrine for a double celebration.
N. Mohan, General Manager of the temple, said, “It is a happy coincidence that we are marking our first anniversary on Onam, which is such an auspicious day. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the rulers of UAE and the government of Dubai for their continued support.”
He said the temple has received 1.65 million footfalls since its opening on August 29 last year. During Diwali and Dushhera last year, we received 245,000 visitors. Besides the offering of prayers, the temple has also become a hub for community events like marriages, concerts and other year-long festivities that are marked by expats from different parts of India.
“Our Knowledge Room also conducts Sanskrit classes, awareness activities for Children, Bhagavad-Gita sessions, meditation and pranic healing sessions, among other things. We are also involved in many outreach activities, including distribution of groceries to the needy through the Indian Consulate and “smart life” sessions labour camps,” he added.
Frontliners’ floral tribute to UAE
Earlier, several healthcare workers from the Burjeel Medical City came together to spread the message of sustainability and cultural diversity by laying out a 250-square-metre Pookalam ahead of Onam. The frontliners offered a floral tribute to the UAE’s Year of Sustainability and the COP28 Climate Change Conference the country will be hosting this year.
The carpet has been designed to mirror the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations.
Sunjay Sudhir, Ambassador of India to the UAE, who attended the event with his family, encouraged attendees to promote a greener and more sustainable future.
“Amid the vibrant colours of Onam, I feel inspired to see the harmony of tradition and sustainability coming together. This celebration pays homage to the rich heritage of India, while also aligning with the UAE’s commitment to sustainability in the year it is hosting COP28. The unique Pookalam is a reminder that our actions today will shape the world for future generations,” he said.