The Sarnia Malayalee Association marked its official inauguration over the weekend, with a spectacular Onam festival held at the Camlachie Community Centre, drawing some 350 people.
Organizers said the event “brought the spirit of Kerala to Sarnia.”
Kerala is a state in southern India and Malayalam is the primary language spoken there.
“Our aim is to create a sense of belonging and to share the beauty of Kerala’s culture with our fellow Sarnians,” said Liju Zachariah, president of the Sarnia Malayalee Association — a not-for-profit organization that aims to preserve and promote the rich cultural heritage of the Malayalee community. “The turnout and enthusiasm we have seen today are truly heartwarming.”
Festivities included a traditional lamp lighting ceremony — symbolizing the dispelling of darkness and the triumph of light — followed by an exquisite floral carpet, or ‘Pookkalam,’ crafted by community members.
Attendees, dressed in traditional Kerala attire, took park in an Onam Sadhya (feast); the Sadhya, a grand vegetarian meal served on banana leaves, featured an array of 21 dishes.
Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu was also on hand for the event, and commended the association for its commitment to preserving and sharing the unique cultural heritage of Kerala.
“I am truly honoured to be here today to celebrate Onam with the Sarnia Malayalee Association,” she told the crowd. “It is events like these that showcase the rich diversity of our community and bring us all together.”
The Onam celebration also featured a performance of traditional Kerala dance forms, including the graceful Bharathanatyam and the energetic Thiruvathirakali, captivating the audience with their intricate movements and vibrant costumes.
A traditional ‘Vanjipattu’ or boat race song added an element of excitement and showcased the association’s commitment to preserving the cultural traditions of Kerala.
“The inauguration of the Sarnia Malayalee Association and the Onam celebration will undoubtedly be etched in the memories of all who attended, reinforcing the value of cultural diversity and community in Sarnia’s tapestry,” organizers added. “Their successful inauguration and Onam celebration serve as a testament to the power of cultural preservation and community cohesion, bringing people of all backgrounds together to celebrate the rich and diverse traditions of Kerala.”