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Another Awesome Onam September 3, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Pot Pourri.

Another Onam passed by. And I was just thinking that every year it just gets better and better. Before I get into details, here’s a little backgrounder on Onam for a lot of my blogger friends who may not know about this festival.

Onam is an annual harvest festival, celebrated mainly in the south Indian state of Kerala. It is a popular festival among Malayalees, and falls during the month of Chingam (August-September as per the Gregorian calendar), the first month of the Malayalam calendar and lasts for ten days. Traditionally celebrated as a harvest festival, mythologically it is linked to Malayalee-Hindu folktales. However Onam is celebrated by people of all religions.

In Muscat, I celebrate Onam twice. One is a private celebration on the actual Thiruvonam day (August 27). This is the day I come to work dressed in the traditional clothes (shirt and mundu mostly). A good part of the day is spent in connecting with near and dear friends around the world and exchanging greetings. Come afternoon, I’m ready to tuck into the best lunch of the year – the Onasadya or the Onam feast which is a delightful spread of some of yummiest Keralite vegetarian dishes served on a green plantain leaf.


This was my first course of Onasadya this year. It was followed by three more servings and helpings of two kinds of payasam (dessert). Boy, I can eat. Hats off to Rakesh and Bina – my very endearing hosts this year. For dinner, I had another sadya, but this time a more toned down celebration of food.

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Enjoying the Onam feast…

The second celebration was a few days later, in fact on the first Saturday after Onam. (1 September). That’s when all the Malayalees at my work get together and give the rest of the crew an Onam treat every year. There are 10 of us in a total team of 120. This year was no different. We started preparing for the celebrations the previous evening. I’m the caterer, the treasurer, purchasing and chief cheering officer for this operation.

A gang of us teamed up at Nirvana (our chill-out den at work) and prepared Pookalam (a floral spread which is one of the many ways in which Onam is celebrated). Flowers are hard to get in Muscat and I still remember a lot of us running around last year plucking flowers from any plant we could lay hands on. This year, it was different. We had a surplus of flowers, specially procured from Mumbai, India.

You can see some of us sorting out the flowers.

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And here’s our Pookalam. A truly fascinating sight to behold!

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The next day, Onam is on at UMS. Diyas (lamps) are lit on the floral spread. A traditional vilaku (lamp) is placed next to the spread. Onam songs are floating in the background. The full troop marches in. After all, they are going to be served a fabulous South Indian breakfast with idlis, vadas, sambar, chutney and vermicelli payasam (dessert). The celebrations begin when the lamp is lit by Sandeep, our head honcho. And then Rekha – who is our ‘Voice of Kerala’, goes on to give a small spiel on the legend behind Onam.

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The Gang of Malayalees…

And then everybody tucks into the sumptuous breakfast. It seems that the vermicelli payasam is outstanding. Shamir, who is our Head of IT, is seen discreetly downing glasses of this delectable dessert while serving rest of the team. Mr. Nair, who is the overseer of this celebration, is always doing the rounds ensuring things are on smoothly.

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Everyone is happy and the spirit of Onam is truly in the air.

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Myself with Rakesh (Rocks / Rocky)…

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It’s an amazing morning – a day when you feel you’re back home in Kerala and not in Muscat. Onam rocks!


1. Luc Debaisieux - September 3, 2007

Hi Arun,
I love traditions especially those making you feel at home. But at the same time, it is always nice to be part of a tradition you’ve never experienced as well. Like I had the chance once to experience Thanksgiving while in the USA… and it was indeed a unique experience. There is a lot to learn from these precious events. Thank you for sharing this with us.

2. Linu - September 4, 2007

That Pookkalam is beautiful!!!!

3. Tina - September 27, 2007

wow, food looks yummy, happy onam

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