Every autumn, members of Stettler’s Malayalee community gather together to celebrate harvest through the festival of Onam, and this year was no different as about 40 people gathered at the Christ King parish hall for the event on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Onam is a festival that has become relatively non-denominational although its roots are in the Hindu religion, according to Boban Charls, who helped organize this year’s Onam gathering. The festival is celebrated throughout Kerala, one of the southernmost states of India from where the Malayalees originate.
The festival commemorates the homecoming of King Mahabali. According to the myth, the king is so attached to his kingdom that he comes from the nether world each year to see his people living happily, and thus Onam was created to celebrate the king’s visits during harvest.
The gathering includes celebrations in the way of traditional food, music, dress and the “athapookkalam,” which is a floral carpet, started on the first day and grown over the ten-day duration of the festival.
In Stettler, the athapookkalam was made from flowers gathered from all over the community.
Another important part of the Onam celebration is the “onam sadhya” or feast. The feast is usually served on banana or plantain leaves, but since they cannot be found in Stettler, Charls said special paper plates designed like the leaves are purchased in Edmonton.
The “leaf” plate had rice and 13 different types of curries, Charls said, for people to enjoy, although traditionally the number of curries can vary from 24 to 28.