KUWAIT: A traditional Onam feast is served on banana leaves in an apartment in Salmiya as a group of Malayali families gathered there to celebrate the festival.

KUWAIT: The Keralaites in Kuwait yesterday celebrated Onam, Kerala's harvest festival, with traditional enthusiasm and gaiety. Fortunately, 'Thiruvonam,' the most important day during the 10-day-long festival, fell on the fourth day of Eid Al-Adha festival this year, making it convenient for many to celebrate the festival alongside Eid festivities.

For many Malayali families, the festival provided an opportunity for get-together in their apartments where traditional 'Onasadya'(feast) was served. Being the highlight of the celebration, the Onam banquet, consists only of vegetarian dishes and is served on a banana leaf. It is an extravagant meal with 16 to 26 dishes and will be served as a single course. In many flats, women came together in their traditional Onam sari and blouse to lay 'pookalam' (floral designs).

"We are very happy this year because we could celebrate Eid first and then Onam during the 4-day of the holiday," said Mohammad Rafi, a Keralite expat who stays in Jleeb-Al-Shouyoukh.

Banking on the huge demand for fruits and vegetables during the festival season, many supermarkets and grocery shops announced big promotions and sales though customers claimed that the prices of many items went up during the season. Many Indian restaurants in Salmiya, Jleeb, Mangaf and Fahaheel announced 'ready-to-serve' Onam meals yesterday, charging KD2.5 to KD4 per packet. Eid and Onam celebrations mark the beginning of a long festival season for the 350,000-strong Malayali community in Kuwait.

Thiruvonam marks the end of a ten-day Onam festivities, though Indian associations in Kuwait have scheduled Onam celebrations in the coming weekends which may very well continue through October. Onam is celebrated as the homecoming of mystical king 'Mahabali' and during his rule an egalitarian society prevailed where all citizens were treated as equal.

Sajeev K Peter