Venkat Raman –
Friendly people showering respect and hospitality, entertainers in colour costumes and men and women serving at least 20 different food items will witness the return of ‘Onam,’ the most colourful festival of the people of South Indian State of Kerala.
‘Malayalis,’ as they are known, are among the most hardworking, resilient and family-oriented people from India and over the years, their presence in almost every country around the world as professionals, entrepreneurs, scientists, medical practitioners, engineers, accountants, administrators, support staff has been acknowledged and applauded. They are among the most prominent expatriates in the Arab Gulf which was home for this writer for a length of time.
Oneness at heart
Their community spirit and sense of belonging come to the fore at Onam festivities every year. There are no Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Nairs, Menons, Namboodiris or any other faiths in such gatherings. There are just Malayalis coming together to mark the change of season to one of harvesting the goodness sown months earlier. The reason for the gathering could have a historic perspective involving a Demon King (please read the adjacent story) but the purpose these days is to foster harmony and peace that are so conspicuous by their absence in the modern world.
According to available information, the actual day of celebration of Onam in Kerala is Friday, August 28, 2015. However, celebrations in other parts of the world would vary, depending on the convenience of local communities.
In New Zealand, festivals are organised by the Auckland Malayali Samajam in Auckland on Saturday, August 22 and the Hamilton Malayalee Association on September 5.
Auckland Malayali Samajam
Joseph Kuriakose (aka Jomichen), Secretary of Auckland Malayali Samajam commenced preparations for Onam more than two months ago. The celebrations, scheduled to be held on Saturday, August 22, 2015 will arguably be the largest and most extensive in the country. With more than 1000 guests expected to attend the Programme being held at Mahatma Gandhi Centre, 145 New North Road, Eden Terrace, it is busy time for him and his fellow Committee members.
“As well as the traditional songs and dances, a skit, traditional welcome to ‘Mahabali,’ this year’s programme will comprise fun and games for everyone. Onam Sadhya will be served in the evening but members of our community will commence preparations from very early in the morning. With more than 20 items, it is a mammoth task,” he said.
Mr Jomichen said that among the highlights of the event would be the release of ‘Dharpanam,’ the annual magazine of the Samajam.
Established in 1997 as a not-for-profit organisation, Auckland Malayali Samajam aims to preserve and promote the unique culture of Kerala.
“Kerala has a multicultural society of Hindus, Muslims and Christians living in harmony from times immemorial. Keralites have a very broadminded culture, which permits mutual respect of social and cultural aspects. The same attitudes and values are brought to New Zealand. This is particularly relevant and valuable for the youth born and bought up here or who came here at a very young age,” Mr Jomichen said.
He said that the Samajam accounted for more than 1000 members and that a number of cultural, educational and sporting events have been planned for the year.
“We also aim to educate the younger members of our community on the rich culture and language of Kerala and help them to grow as responsible citizens. We are committed to the well-being of all New Zealanders, towards the achievement of which we conduct blood donation camps every year, organise donations for community welfare organisations such as Salvation Army and the Auckland City Mission, Westpac Rescue Helicopter, St John’s Ambulance,” Mr Jomichen said.
Christchurch Kerala Association
Saturday, August 22 is the date set for Onam in the Canterbury region by the Christchurch Kerala Association, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.
Secretary Justin James said that this would be the tenth year for Onam festivities in Christchurch.
“The programme will commence at 1030 pm at St Christopher’s Church Hall, located at 244 Avonhead Road. Talented members of our community will present a number of cultural items while ‘Onam Sadhya’ will excite the palate,” he said.
Hamilton Malayalee Association
As reported in our August 12, 2015 issue, the Hamilton Malayalee Association will celebrate Onam on Saturday, September 5, 2015.
Secretary Dilip Kurien told us at press time that the event will be held at the Melville Intermediate School Hall and that celebrations will begin at 9 am.\
“The festival highlights the underlying rich cultural traditions of Kerala with a display of various dance forms (folk as well as classical), Tug of War, Lemon and Spoon Race for women, Muttayi Perukkal for children and various other games that are popular in Kerala. The day will also provide a platform for young children to showcase their talent in classical and contemporary dances. A sumptuous ‘Onam Sadhya,’ the traditional Onam lunch, will be served on a banana leaf in true Kerala spirit,” Mr Kurien said.
We were unable to get details of the Festivities planned in Wellington and other centres.