A day of celebrations
Tens of thousands of expatriates from five Indian states celebrated harvest festivals that mark their New Year over the weekend.
Keralites, Punjabis, Bengalis, Tamilians and Assamese were delighted that they received a holiday on the same day of their respective New Year days.
Keralites, who form the largest Indian expatriate population in the UAE, celebrated the harvest festival called Vishu with traditional fervour. Hindus among the Malayalees prepared Vishukkani, the first thing they see in the morning which include fresh fruits and vegetables that are harvested in the season. Thousands of non-Hindus also joined the celebrations by wearing new ethnic outfits and having traditional feast on banana leaves. Restaurants run by Keralites witnessed enormous rush for the traditional lunch called sadhya on Saturday. Some of the popular eateries even flew in veteran chefs from Kerala to head their preparations.
“The importance of this harvest festival never diminishes in the lives of Malayalee expatriates though we are cultivating nothing and buying everything from the market for Vishukkani, which is a feast for our eyes to herald a prosperous New Year,” said Rajeev Pillai, the president of Al Khail Gate Malayalee Association (Akgma).
Several Malayalee associations combined their Easter and Vishu celebrations since the Easter day fell on a working day while the latter was on a holiday.
Tamilians in the UAE marked the Tamil Puthandu in gaiety on Friday. Several hundreds of Tamilians attended cultural programme organised by the Emirates Tamilians Association in Dubai in which stars from the Tamil film industry took part.
The Punjabis in the UAE were double-delighted for their New Year this time as it is the first ever Baisakhi festival they celebrated after the opening of a new gurdwara at Jebel Ali. Thousands of devotees thronged the place of worship to offer special prayers for the festival over the weekend. “All of us are extremely happy about getting this gurdwara here in Dubai,” said Jaspal Singh, a Punjabi working in a Dubai television channel.
The Assamese community, which started the celebration of the Rongali Bihu festival last weekend, continued the festivity this weekend as well. “We started our Bihu celebrations with an excellent cultural programme last week. This weekend we visited friends and relatives and had traditional Assamese dishes that are mainly made of rice flakes, sugar cane, curd, coconut etc,” said Amitangshu Dev Choudhury a member of the UAE Assam Society.
Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, the Bengali community gathered on Friday to celebrate Pahela Baishakh, or New Year’s Day according to the Bengali calendar. The festival is shared by the Bengali-speaking community all over the world, crossing national and religious lines. The ambassador of Bangladesh, Md. Nazmul Quanine, attended the day-long festivities at Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia School.
Plenty of traditional food, dresses and music were on hand at the festival. The venue was lined with stalls run by the Embassy of Bangladesh and other professional and community organisations selling homemade treats and Bengali crafts. Many in attendance wore the New Year’s traditional colours of red and white. According to the ambassador, Bangladeshi expats in the UAE number around 700,000. Many ethnic Bengalis from India, who celebrate the holiday with equal fervour, were also in attendance at the Abu Dhabi event. Next weekend, a New Year celebration in Sharjah stadium will host up to 50,000 visitors.