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A slice of Kerala in Vienna

india Updated: Sep 12, 2006 12:35 IST
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For a short spell, hotel Haus Der Begegnung in Liesing here turned virtually into a Kerala locale as it celebrated Onam, the harvest festival of the southern Indian state, with floral arrangements, brass lamps, music and dance.

Women in traditional Keralite attire applied sandalwood paste to guests' foreheads in welcome while loudspeakers played Malayalam songs as festival revelries got under way with a cultural extravaganza.

Although Onam was celebrated in Kerala on Sep 5, the Malayalees in Vienna chose Saturday for the festivities to coincide with the weekend visit of Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi to Austria.

"We are grateful to the people from Kerala here. The health sector of this country is blessed with the dedicated people from your state," said Manfred Wurm, district chairman of Vienna's district-23.

Ravi, who is from Kerala, said, "I am proud of my people. They serve this nation as devoted angels. That's what Wurm told me."

Ravi, who also met members of the Indian community during an interaction programme, told Austrians about the role that India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru played in making Austria a sovereign republic.

Austria signed a state treaty in 1955 to be 'permanently neutral'.

"I have been attending the Kerala Onam celebrations regularly for the last four years. They have better programmes every year," Wurm, who briefly joined the dancers on the stage, told IANS.

"Now I want to visit Kerala," he added.

For the Malayalee community here the event is an annual occasion to meet up with one another.

"Amid the hectic schedules throughout the year, this season is very exciting. We practise for the programmes for weeks. It also gives us an opportunity to meet each other," Vienna Malayalee Association (VMA) president Babu Kozhikottayil said.

Sheel Kant Sharma, the Indian ambassador to Austria, and Sunil Kumar Mohit, deputy chief of the Indian mission in Vienna, also attended the function.

The cultural programme, organised by the VMA, included traditional dances, cinematic dances and music programmes. Many Austrians also watched the show.

Among the around 20,000-strong Indian community here, 6,000 people are from Kerala.

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