Wednesday 25 October 2023

In honour of the festival of Onam, a special celebration was held to mark the occasion by colleagues at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Manchester Clinical Research Facility at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI).

Onam is an annual Hindu festival, which usually falls between August to September and is celebrated for ten days. It is a significant and traditional harvest festival where people come together to enjoy food, participate in cultural activities, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Indian state Kerala. At the NIHR Manchester CRF at MRI, colleagues celebrated by engaging in a variety of traditional Onam activities.

Pookkalam created by CRF colleagues
Pookkalam created by CRF colleagues

The first day of the festival begins with the creation of the Pookkalam. This is an intricate flower arrangement made up of a variety of colourful petals which people create to symbolise the spirit of togetherness and use to decorate the floors of their homes. As part of their celebration, CRF colleagues dedicated their personal time outside of their clinical commitments to work together in creating their own version of the Pookkalam.

MRI colleagues celebrating Onam

Throughout the special event, colleagues also dressed in traditional attire. This style of saree originates from Kerala, the region of India in which Onam is a major annual event.

Onam also consists of many food-related features, with the most special being the sharing of the Onam Sadhya to promote unity. This feast consists of nine or more vegetarian dishes served on a banana leaf. CRF colleagues made their own version of the Onam Sadhya, which they enjoyed together in honour of the tradition to end their special celebration.

Onam Sadhya

Discussing the meaning of Onam, Catherine George, Nurse Manager at NIHR Manchester CRF at MRI, said:

“Onam festival holds immense cultural and mythological significance in the Indian state of Kerala as it is a celebration of the homecoming of King Mahabali, a mythical ruler who is believed to visit Kerala during this time. Onam signifies the harvest season and expresses gratitude to nature’s bounty.”