Muscat – In Oman, thousands of miles away from the lush landscapes of Kerala, the Malayali diaspora fervently keeps its roots alive through the vibrant festival of Onam. The whole community comes together to revel in its shared cultural heritage.
Homes, malls, restaurants and even office corridors in Muscat are decorated with pookalam, a signature of Onam, as Keralites dressed for the occasion in traditional attire, admire the intricate floral decorations. On weekends, visitors may chance upon an actor dressed up like King Mahabali, who as the legend goes, visits his subjects during Onam, sharing blessings amid lavish feasts.
Indu Baburaj, a Muscat-based homemaker, said, “Onam offers a unique chance to connect with fellow Indians and revisit our cherished traditions. The elaborate floral pookalam and grand Onam sadya feast evoke memories. This year, Onam falls on a weekday, limiting our initial plans. But the festivities will kick off in earnest from Friday, enriched with numerous cultural programmes in which I am excited to participate.”
Highlighting the role of bananas in Onam traditions, she added, “Banana preparations like banana curry and chips are staple dishes, typically served on banana leaves.”
Vinu Thomas, who works in the healthcare sector in Sohar, stressed the universal appeal of Onam. “Though rooted in Hindu traditions, Onam transcends religious lines, being celebrated by various South Indian communities. Men and women, irrespective of their background, don traditional clothes, share meals and partake in festivities that extend till October end. For many of us, far from our homeland, this festival offers a momentary return, a comfort during our foreign sojourn. It’s heartening to witness diverse individuals uniting over shared traditions.”
Month-long celebrations spotlight traditional arts at cultural programmes featuring dance, music and more. Club competitions infuse a lively edge to these festivities. In all of this, elaborate floral designs meticulously crafted with multicoloured petals remain the centrepiece.
Anirudh Adarsh, a Grade 10 student of Indian School Ghubra, recounted his experiences, saying, “Most of my Onams have been celebrated in Muscat. Our school organised a flower carpet competition; there was a lot of enthusiasm and creativity. For me, the ten-day festival is synonymous with these flower designs, a tradition I eagerly take part in with my family. Today, being a holiday, I lent a hand in preparing the sadya.”
In Oman, Onam is a testament to the enduring power of traditions that binds communities together.