UAE: Expats kick off Onam celebrations with drums, dance and festive songs in Abu Dhabi

Even though the festival lasts for 10 days, it goes on for months in the Emirates and the Gulf region

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Onam celebrations
Onam celebrations

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Mon 5 Sep 2022, 8:10 PM

Last updated: Mon 5 Sep 2022, 11:30 PM

After a gap of two years, expats from the Indian state of Kerala are in a jubilant mood to mark the harvest festival of Onam.

Indian associations, malls, community groups, professionals and corporate houses have kicked off the celebrations of the festival, the hallmark of which is that it is celebrated by all Keralites, irrespective of religion, caste and creed.

Even though the festival lasts for 10 days, it goes on for months in the UAE and the Gulf region, mostly because of the gatherings being held on holidays, depending on the availability of halls and restaurants. It is estimated that close to half of the 3.5-million-strong Indian expat community hails from the southern Indian state of Kerala, and there are hundreds of associations and college groups from the state thriving in the UAE. This stretches Onam celebrations through to Diwali – the next major Indian festival coming up in autumn — and beyond.

The Abu Dhabi Chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) got together this Sunday at Millennium Al Rawdah Hotel, where its 350 members, families, other community members and officials from the Indian Embassy attended, with most people decked out in traditional festive outfits.

John George, chairman, ICAI, said that Onam gives a “great message of unity”.

“Our celebrations were attended by members who are residents of various Indian states. It reflects the symbolic message of harmony and oneness," George said.

Krishnan N.V., vice-chairman, ICAI, added: “Such an event gives an opportunity to understand the significance and importance of this festival.”

There were several cultural activities held, including performances of ‘Thiruvathirakali’ (a traditional dance), singing of festive songs, and the bating of traditional drums - all heralding the homecoming of demon King Mahabali, who ruled Kerala, according to Hindu mythology. Also, a ‘pookkalam’ (floral carpet) was laid, a tug of war held and a grand ‘Onam sadhya’ (traditional vegetarian meal) served.

Executive committee members Anu Thomas, Rohit Dayma, Priyanka Birla and past chairmen were also present.

Healthcare groups like Ahalia Medical Group are planning celebrations involving more than 2,500 fully- vaccinated staff from across 30 nationalities.

Sooraj Prabhakaran, Senior Manager, Operations, Ahalia Medical Group, noted that celebrations like this are perfect occasions to develop bonding and soft skills among staff members.

“We weren’t celebrating events on a large scale for the last couple of years because of the Covid-19 restrictions. Now 100 per cent of our staff are fully vaccinated and this gives us courage to responsibly celebrate this year’s Onam on a grand scale. Our staff at facilities across the UAE will be part of the celebrations. We have been marking all important occasions like Eid, Christmas, Diwali and Onam.”


Abu Dhabi Malayalee Samajam, based in Mussafah, has announced a month-long celebration with several activities. The association held cultural programmes and ‘pookkalam’ competitions on Sunday. Also, the grand ‘Onam sadhya’ will be held at India Social and Cultural Centre Abu Dhabi, which will also be holding various events.

Meanwhile, malls and hypermarkets have all decked up to mark the festival.

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