Malayalees in Madurai invite their friends in the city to partake in the festivities.

Impressive floral carpets, damsels draped in spotless sandal-coloured saris, deafening drumbeats of Chenda melam, captivating cultural performances and an elaborate spread of traditional curries for the Onasadya marked the Onam celebration organised by the Malayalee Samajam in the city.

What prompted the samajam to organise the event 45 days after the actual festival? “We don’t want to put our members in a spot,” said K.R. Sankaran, president of the Samajam. “Most of them wanted to visit their native towns in Kerala to be with their kith and kin. Also, we did not want to miss the opportunity to greet our friends in Madurai. It is an occasion to showcase our culture to them and also the love and respect we have for them.”

After a traditional pookkalam or floral carpet welcome, the organisers treated the gathering with cultural shows that included a Bharathanatyam performance by Madurai-based dancer Anjali for the popular number ‘Natha Vinothangal’ from the movie Salangai Oli.

The Thiruvathirai Kali by K.V. Jayasree’s group of dancers transported the audience to the Kerala hinterland.

Apart from performers from Madurai, members from Dindigul Malayalee Samajam also enthralled the audience with their group dance. Former national silambam champion Pooja Mohan exhibited her skills on stage. She drew different shapes in the air with the twirling ball ribbon, presenting a visual treat. She gave some anxious moments to the spectators when she performed with Urumi (known in Tamil as Surul Pattai). Sparks flew from the razor-sharp, curling blades when the long steel whip came into contact with the ground.

When it comes to passion for Mohini Attam nothing stands before 55-year-old Sukumar, who gave a 20-minute performance. “My love for the art started during my college days and it is continuing,” said this native of Vadakarai in Kozhikode. Varkala Mohan kept the audience spellbound with his magic show. The organisers brought Chenda melam performers from Kottayam.

Onam would be incomplete without the grand feast. For the Onasadya, cooks from Irinjalakuda in Thrissur District were roped in. Besides uppilittathu (pickles), there were aviyal, chammanthi (chutney), payasams and prathamans for the visitors to taste.

It was an occasion to celebrate for the 1,300 Malayalee families residing in Madurai. Said Sankaran, “To mark the golden jubilee celebrations of the samajam, we have planned to arrange Malayalam language classes in Madurai.” The office-bearers have also taken efforts to raise funds for the samajam’s own building in the city.