A small Indian community in Whanganui now has its own identity after a special festival staged in the city on Saturday.

They are the Kerala people, all immigrants from an area on the south-western tip of India but who now call Whanganui their home.

On Saturday those families formalised their place by setting up the Whanganui Kerala Association with a day of entertainment and feasting at Whanganui Girls' College.

Sreejith Sreekumar, a spokesperson for the Kerala community, said the association gave the 20 families living here a clearly identifiable bond. He said the annual Onam Festival was an ideal time to set it up.


"It gives us some cohesion and direction," he said.

Mr Sreekumar said the Onam festival was a harvest festival and was hugely popular back in India. It involves elaborate feasts, songs, dances and games.

Saturday's festival had a more formal side with guests including Whanganui MP Chester Borrows and Community Constable Keith Butters helping light the traditional lamp.

The festival usually lasts anywhere from four to 10 days with the high point falling on September 14.

"But most of our families are working so we decided to do everything on the weekend," Mr Sreekumar said.

The first of the Kerala people arrived in Whanganui in 2005. Some came to study at UCOL and others followed them. Others have found jobs as nurses or in restaurants around Whanganui. Mr Sreekumar is on track to join the Police.