Have you come across a quirky video on social media of Maveli — the beloved mythological king of the southern Indian state of Kerala — swinging on the Dubai Frame? The brainchild of a media company in the UAE, the video celebrates the occasion of Onam, an annual traditional harvest festival marked by Keralites.
On Tuesday, the day of Thiruvonam, the 10th day of the countdown to Onam — UAE residents celebrated by putting colourful pookalam (flower carpet) and taking time off work to make home-made sadhyas. An Onasadhya (Onam feast) is an elaborate feast made of rice and at least 10-15 different vegetable curries, which are eaten in a certain chronological order.
Dina Murali went all out to celebrate the occasion, first with her family and then with her team. The co-founder and CEO of DZ Designs began the day by dressing up in traditional clothes with her husband Mohammed Zain and children Zaara and Aaira.
Then, she headed to work where she treated all 20 of her employees across three offices in two countries to a sumptuous Onasadhya. “Being a Malayali, Onam is important to me,” she said. “My husband Zain is not Malayali but being culturally different, we try to educate the girls of who we are. Also, our colleagues are British and Filipino. I think this is the first time my Filipino colleagues enjoyed a full vegetarian meal. They were flabbergasted by the variety of vegetarian dishes we managed.”
Dubai resident Manju, who usually makes the entire sadhya (feast) at home decided to invite her friends and neighbours for a feast. “They don’t usually make sadhya at home, so we all decided to celebrate together,” she said. The highlight for the friends was putting pookalam together.
“We bought about 750 grams of flowers from our local supermarket early on Wednesday,” she said. “We kept it in airtight containers in the fridge to stop it from going bad. It cost about Dh35. It was a bit pricier than usual, probably because so many people were buying it for pookalam.”
For newlyweds Udhayan and Roshni, it was their first Onam together. “We are excited to celebrate our first Onam together as a married couple, and this also marks our inaugural Onam in the UAE,” said Roshni. “We both decided to stay home for the occasion, wanting to make it extra special by spending it together. The highlight of our celebration was cooking the sadhya together. While I took care of the cooking, my husband assisted by handling the cutting and slicing of vegetables. It truly added a wonderful touch to our first Onam here in the UAE.”
The couple dressed up in traditional attire with Udhayan wearing a mundu (rectangular white cloth) while Roshni dressed in saree.
Dubai resident Shiyaz Iqbal took a quick break from his work to go celebrate Onam at home with his family. “The children had a day off for Onam, so we decided to celebrate together,” he said. “We dressed up in mundu and ordered sadhya from a restaurant. It felt good to celebrate with them.”
Meanwhile, huge crowds were seen at restaurants across the country as people of all nationalities flocked to try out the Onasadhya.
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