Onam Celebrations at Work in Kerala, India

Posted On: August 18, 2015

Onam falls every year between late August and mid September for 10 days. Onam is the major holiday of the people of Kerala, a state in southwestern India. Onam is a harvest festival, but it also has mythical connections. Every year during Onam, the king of yesteryear, King Maveli (Mahabali), comes to visit. Many moons ago, King Maveli was banished from his kingdom (Kerala), with the promise that he could visit every year during Onam. This Onam story is depicted in the flower design, below.  In this post, I want to share some of my experiences with Onam celebrations at work in Kerala, India. 

King Maveli Onam Story

King Maveli Onam Story

Onam is a 10 day festival. While many school and college students do have holidays for up to two weeks, working professionals may have one or two days off. Typically for a week before Onam schools, colleges and office places all have Onam programs. Onam programs include cultural programs such as singing, dancing (thiruvathira ladies dance), skits, and competitions. Competitions include tug of war, eating contests (idli eating contest, for example), musical chairs, egg and spoon race, fancy dress competition, pookkalam (flower arrangement) competition, and others. (Jennifer Kumar, author of post helped to cut flowers for the flower arrangement as shown in the photo at the start of this post.) Last but not least, no Onam party worth it’s salt is complete without a feast. The feast (Onasadya) is also relished by one and all.

Creating flower designs for Onam at work

Creating flower designs for Onam at work


Authentic Journeys initiated it’s office in the Non-Resident Indian – The Business Incubator (NRI-TBI), Infopark in early 2013. Being that 2013 was the first year of incubation at NRI TBI, it was a great experience for me to participate in the Infopark wide Onam festivities. While bigger companies may celebrate for two or three days the week prior to Onam, smaller companies participate only on one day, the day before the Onam holiday. One of the Infopark wide competitions is the pookkalam competition. As I do not have employees, my colleagues included about 15 other employees of the companies in the NRI TBI incubator. It was a great experience to complete this pookkalam with this team. In fact, it took all of us 15 team members more than FIVE hours to coordinate and put together this arrangement. This is five hours of continuous work. Completing such a pookkalam alone in this amount of time seems unfathomable, let alone not as enjoyable as it is with the group.

Enjoy browsing the photos of the team’s effort in the below slideshow. Happy Onam to one and all! (If preferred, see the photos on Facebook, click here.)

P.S. Take note, for US clients or colleagues working with Indians based in Kerala, these festivities literally take up a whole day of work in smaller companies. In larger companies, some may spend two or three full days celebrating.  

Author, Jennifer Kumar, has provided training and leadership coaching programs to over 40 companies in Kerala, India since 2011. She specializes in coaching professionals in the software development and IT fields. Contact her for more information. 

Related Posts: 
Read about Jennifer in the Malayalam magazine, Vanitha
Jennifer performing in Thiruvathira in the US  


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