Sheikh Hamdan joins Onam celebrations with sadya feast

Crown Prince of Dubai shares photo of traditional meal served on banana leaf for Keralite festival

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, wished Keralites a 'Happy Onam'. Wam
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Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, joined Onam celebrations on Tuesday, sharing a colourful feast served during the Keralite festival.

Sheikh Hamdan posted a photo on his Instagram Stories using the hashtag #HappyOnam. The photo showed the vegetarian feast, called Onam sadya, which is always presented on a banana leaf.

Between nine and 30 different dishes can be served with Onam sadya, including curries, dal, pickles, poppadums and banana chips. Generally served during weddings, it is also cherished by all at this time of year.

Onam – an important harvest festival in Kerala – began this year on August 20 and is marked with great fanfare across the South Indian state and among Malayali communities around the world.

The UAE's Malayali community is nearly a million strong – one of the largest Kerala diaspora in the Gulf, according to the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs. Keralites make up 55 per cent of Indian expatriates in the UAE.

Although it is a Hindu festival, Onam has taken on such cultural significance that people of all religions in Kerala now celebrate it to some extent.

During the festival, people place flower arrangements – called pookkalam – around their community and outside their homes. They are considered auspicious and are placed to welcome King Mahabali.

Women wear a cream-coloured kasavu two-piece set with a gold border or a sari during Onam, placing flowers in their hair. Meanwhile, men wear a traditional mundu wrapped around their waist.

Many different performances take place as part of the Onam celebrations. One major event is the snake boat races in Kerala – the region's traditional war boats dating back about 500 years – which use vessels similar to dragon boats.

Another important event is the Kummati Kali dances through the streets, particularly in the Thrissur district. Dancers wear colourful masks and cover their bodies in grass. Theyyam performers – considered to be a direct line to the gods – are also commonly seen during the festival and often perform at temples.

Updated: August 30, 2023, 9:32 AM