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Sindhu Punnoose (right) and Soby Bernard Thomas enjoying a traditional Kerala Sadhya feast. Photo / Michael Craig
Onam, one of the biggest festival for Malayalis in the South Indian state of Kerala, will be celebrated in grand style in Auckland.

A main feature of the festival is the Sadhya meal, where more than 20 food items are served on a banana leaf, followed by traditional dances.

The Auckland Malayali Samajam (AMS) will run its first ticketed cultural and cuisine extravaganza at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre, where about 1000 people are expected to turn up on Saturday, September 10.

George Cheeran, 54, a member of Auckland’s Malayali community, believes it is important for New Zealanders to understand the Indian festivals are “not just about Diwali”.

Onam is an annual Malayali festival celebrated in honour of Mahabali, a mythical king who ruled Kerala.
Festivities go on for 10 days, and this year that started on August 30 and tomorrow (September 8) being the main day of the festival.
It is believed that King Mahabali comes to visit his subjects on the day of Onam and people invite him into their homes with great fanfare.
Cheeran said Onam is observed across Kerala, and unlike Diwali, people of all creeds celebrated this festival.
“Basically it is a harvest festival, and back in the old days it was a time when people had just come out of the monsoon season and had money to spend,” Cheeran said.
“So it is a happy time, and people will buy new clothes, bought fresh flowers to decorate their houses, and enjoyed Sadhya feasts.”
Many celebrate by making rangolis of flowers which is known as pookkala, in front of their houses.
The Indian population is projected to tip Chinese as the largest ethnic community in 2024.
Immigration expert Professor Emeritus Paul Spoonley said however, the Indian community will be extremely diverse.
“Over the last five years, migrants from India have made up more than Chinese migrants in many visa categories,” Spoonley said.
“There will be a tipping point soon when of the two mega communities of Asian descent, the largest will be Indian.”
Spoonley said the suspension of visa approvals and migration during the Covid-19 pandemic had halted the growth of the Indian community – but only temporarily.
“What is also interesting is how diverse the Indian community is with large numbers from Fiji as well as India, as well as from a wide range of other countries,” he said.
“Most Indians are overseas-born and it will be a long time before the New Zealand-born will outnumber the overseas-born.”
Sindhu Punnoose said the event on Saturday would have been an excellent opportunity for New Zealanders to experience the Onam feast and festivities, but the tickets have all been sold out.
“We wanted it to be an opportunity to share the extravagance of Onam and our ancient Kerala culture, food and traditions,” Punnoose said.
“But the response has just been much better than expected, and we will look at how we can include more people next year.”

What: Onam Festival
Where: Mahatma Gandhi Centre, 145 New North Rd, Auckland
When: Saturday, September 10, from 5pm
Tickets: Sold out


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