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Posted: 11:00am Saturday 10 Sep, 2022 | By Debbie Griffiths Author

The traditional tug of war from the last event. Photo: supplied.

A bedazzled eight-foot-tall Indian elephant and a traditional tug-of-war are some of the highlights at the Onam Celebration in Te Puna today.
The celebration is the third event organised by the Association of Tauranga Malayalee Aotearoa for the ethnic community, also known as Keralites, living in Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty.
ATMA president Jiji Peter Pulikkottil says there are around 300 people from the southern Indian state of Kerala now involved in the group and looking forward to the celebration this Saturday, September 10 from 10am until 6pm at Te Puna Memorial Hall.
“Last year’s gathering was cancelled when the country went into level four lockdown,” says Jiji. “It’s an occasion to show togetherness and unity and celebrates our harvest with a traditional lunch using fresh produce.”
The cardboard elephant will be part of a parade to kick off a day of cultural celebrations.
“We would love anyone interested in learning about our culture to come along to the parade. We’re a small but proud community,” says Jiji.
The overarching vision of ATMA is community development in Tauranga by promoting cultural, educational, and social activities of the Malayalee community.
“Onam is a harvest festival celebrated by people of Kerala in India,” says Jiji. “It is celebrated by Malayalee communities worldwide to commemorate King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam, a New Year Day for Malayalees.”
Jiji says the festival is hoped to bring together people from religions to take part in traditions such as Pookkalam (flower Rangoli), Onam Kali, (sports competitions), tug of war, cultural performances and the traditional feast called Onam Sadya.
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