A dazzled eight-foot-tall Indian elephant and traditional tug of war are some of the highlights of the Onam celebration in Te Puna today.
The celebration is the third event organized by the Tauranga Malayalee Aotearoa Association for the ethnic community, also known as Keralites, living in Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty.
ATMA President Jiji Peter Pulikkottil said around 300 people from the southern Indian state of Kerala are now involved in the group and are looking forward to the celebration this Saturday September 10 of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Te Puna Memorial Hall.
“Last year’s rally was canceled when the country entered a level four lockdown,” says Jiji. “It’s an opportunity to show togetherness and unity and celebrate our harvest with a traditional lunch made from fresh produce.”
The cardboard elephant will be part of a parade to kick off a day of cultural celebrations.
“We would like anyone interested in learning more about our culture to come to the parade. We are a small but proud community,” says Jiji.
ATMA’s overall vision is community development in Tauranga by promoting the cultural, educational and social activities of the Malayalee community.
“Onam is a harvest festival celebrated by the people of Kerala in India,” says Jiji. “It is celebrated by Malayalee communities around the world to commemorate King Mahabali, whose spirit is believed to visit Kerala at the time of Onam, a New Year’s Day for Malayalees.”
Jiji says the festival hopes to bring people of religions together to participate in traditions such as Pookkalam (Flower Rangoli), Onam Kali (sports competitions), tug of war, cultural performances and the traditional festival called Onam Sadya.