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Festivals in India are always a grand affair. Across the length and breadth of the country, people celebrate the major festivals with great pomp and enthusiasm. The festival celebrations are a reflection of the rich cultural heritage and the ancient traditions of India. One such festival is Onam, one of the most important and popular festivals of Kerala. 

Onam is a harvest festival, and it is celebrated by the Malayali community worldwide. Like all major festivals in India, one of the highlights of Onam is the elaborate feast known as ‘Sadhya’ or ‘Onam Sadhya.’ 

Sadhya is basically a Malayali term for a feast that is prepared as part of the Onam celebrations on the 10th day of the festival. Almost all the Malayali families in India prepare Onam Sadhya and over the years, its popularity has increased significantly as people of other communities also like to feast on Onam Sadhya. If you are curious about it, here’s everything you need to know about it. 

What is Onam Sadhya? 

Onam Sadhya is a traditional, multi-course vegetarian meal consisting of about 20-30 dishes that is served on a plantain leaf. The families start preparing for the feast much in advance, and seek help from the neighbours, friends and relatives. This is one of the practices that brings the community together and promotes harmony. The meal consists of many traditional dishes from across the state, including dry snacks, an assortment of pickles and chutneys, sweets, rice, and lentils.  

How many dishes are served in Onam Sadhya? 

On an average, there are about 20-30 dishes that are served in Onam Sadhya. The number of dishes served during the feast reflect the social status and prosperity of the family hosting the feast. Some of the most common dishes served in Sadhya during Onam celebration are: 

  •     Choru (boiled rice)
  •     Avial (an assorted vegetable dish made with coconut milk)
  •     Theeyal (mixed vegetable gravy)
  •     Sambhar (lentil soup)
  •     Rasam (a spicy, tangy, watery, soup made from tamarind and other spices)
  •     Mor Curry (yoghurt based curry)
  •     Papad
  •     Mor (buttermilk)
  •     Puli Inji (tamarind and ginger based chutney; a spicy and sweet delicacy)
  •     Sarkara Upperi (banana chips coated with jaggery)
  •     Olan (ash gourd cooked in thick coconut milk)
  •     Pachadi (a salad of pineapple mixed with yoghourt)
  •     Kaaya Varuthathu (banana chips)
  •     Chena Varuthathu (yam slices fried with spices)

.      Paal Payasam (kheer made with milk)

The significance of serving and eating the feast on banana leaf 

When you are in Kerala during Onam, you may notice that everyone uses banana leaves to eat. It has been a tradition that is followed since a long time, and passed from generation to generation. Apart from holding cultural significance, eating on banana leaf is scientifically proven to be beneficial.  

The fresh banana leaves are one of the richest sources of antioxidants called polyphenols. When warm food is served on the leaf, the food absorbs the antioxidants. The leaf also has antibacterial properties and is loaded with vital nutrients, including calcium, carotene and vitamin A.  

Also, many experts suggest that eating with your hands has many health benefits. When you eat food with your hands, the motion and touch helps you connect and activate the chakras in the body, leading to physical, and emotional well-being. 

Let us look at some interesting facts about Onam Sadhya 

‘Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam’ is a famous Malayali idiom loosely translated to – you must have the Onam Sadhya even at the cost of losing your property. This only reflects the importance of the grand feast during Onam celebration in Kerala. 

On auspicious occasions like Onam, before serving the Sadhya to the guests and family members, they offer the feast to the Gods first. This is one of the important reasons why you don’t find any non-vegetarian dishes.  

The pickles served in Onam sadhya are made from the seasonal produce, such as mango, lemons, ginger and gooseberry. Unlike the regular pickles, they don’t contain vinegar, instead, the oil, and the spices act as preservatives.  

The most commonly used spices in all the dishes served in Sadhya are pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, curry leaves, star anise and mustard seeds, all of which are produced and sourced locally in Kerala.  

While serving the Sadhya on the banana leaf, the broad side of the leaf is always on the right and the first item to be served is salt so that you can add salt to any of the dishes according to your taste.  

The dishes served in the Sadhya have different textures, and most of them are dry or semi-dry, which are served on the top half of the leaf. The bottom half is reserved for rice and lentils and curries. As you eat, you can pick and choose the side dishes you want to suit your taste. 

If you are planning to visit Kerala during Onam festival, you are in for a treat. And, you can get the best experience of it all by booking your stay at Club Mahindra resorts. From seeing traditional Pookolam to gorging on the Sadhya feast, you would surely have a delightful holiday experience. 

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