The festival originated from the state of Kerala in southwest India and this recent event was organised by the Ros Malayalees group, which is made up of families from that area.
Local parish priest, Fr Pravin Dhason, who hails from the neighbouring Indian province of Tamil Nadu, explained the origins of the event.
“This is a festival of thanksgiving, which is celebrated every year in Kerala. The people from that region, who have migrated all over the world, come together wherever they are to celebrate and to keep up this tradition and pass it on to the next generation,” he said.
“Southern India has a tradition called the Dravidian tradition and both Kerala and Tamil Nadu fall under this. So while we speak different languages, there are similarities and though we have our own cultural festivals in our own regions, they are all connected.
“The people here today put on traditional dress and dance and eat food together to celebrate. It is a mythical tradition, but we might also claim that some of it is true too!”
The festival is said to mark the return of King Mahabali to Kerala. According to mythology, he was a kind-hearted king and always took care of his people. It’s perhaps not surprising then that thousands of people from modern-day Kerala have migrated to countries like Ireland where they are primarily employed in the healthcare sector.
The Ros Malayalees group was established in 2015 in Roscommon with around 15 families who had come from Kerala to work here. The group has now expanded to include over 60 families, most of whom work in Roscommon University Hospital, the Sacred Heart Home, Roscommon Hospice, and in nursing homes and other care facilities across the county and further afield.
The Onam celebration in Roscommon is also a chance for members of the wider Indian community in the west of Ireland to come together too. It’s a platform for the Indian community to create new friendships and connections. It’s very much a social event with music and food and children happily playing together in the community centre hall.
The organisers of the event, who afforded the Roscommon People a very warm welcome, say that the county is now home to many Indian families and they hope to reach out and become part of other local events in future. They are also very thankful to the local community in Kilbride for their support of the event.