What is Onam Sadhya? Significance, Food and Tradition of Kerala
Onam is a harvest festival widely celebrated in Kerala for 10 days every year during the months of August and September. Being the official festival of the state, Keralites enjoy a series of events and activities during this time like the flower arrangement or Pookalam, boat racing, Kaikottikali dance and extravagant meals called Onam Sadhyas while being dressed in traditional clothes like Kasavu (traditional Kerala saree) and Mundu (Veshti, lungi).
Why is Onam Celebrated? Story of Onam
The festival of Onam while being a harvest festival is also marked to celebrate the return of the Demon King Mahabali, who once ruled the state with a kind heart. According to Indian mythology, King Mahabali was a wise and loved ruler who ruled all three lands: the sky, the earth, and the underworld. This made the Gods insecure and worried, which is why they approached Lord Vishnu with this issue. Hence, Lord Vishnu took the form of a Brahmin sage, Vamana and left to meet the King.
At the meeting, Vamana asked King Mahabali for three pieces of his land. While this seemed to a normal request that the King would agree to, Vamana suddenly grew and captured the whole of the skies and the underworld with 2 steps. Right before the third step, King Mahabali himself bowed in veneration and offered his head for Lord Vishnu to place his feet on. Taken aback by this sacrifice, Lord Vishnu granted King Mahabali the right to visit his land and his people once every year on Onam.
Therefore, the people of Kerala welcome their King with great pomp and extravagance which can be seen in the Onam rituals and the Onam special food.
What is Onam Sadhya?
Sadhya or Sadya or Onam Sadhya is a traditional meal that is consumed during Onam. This meal is elaborate, consisting of more than 24 dishes, all served on fresh banana leaves and best had with bare hands for an authentic experience. Onam Sadhyas are popular not only in Kerala but even in its neighbouring states where many food lovers are always on the hunt for a good Kerala Sadhya nearby. This is because Onam special food features an exciting range of dishes from spicy and aromatic curries to fried snacks and sweets along with vegetable dishes.
14 Popular Onam Sadhya Items:
Sambar: This Kerala-style Sambar is a classic item made with roasted rich spices, coconut shavings, vegetables like drumsticks, carrots, beans, pearl onions and lentils cooked in coconut oil and sambar masala.
Thoran: A dry mixed vegetable dish made with carrots, beans, urad dal, green chillies and coconut oil, Thoran can be paired with steamed rice and sambar for the ultimate soulful taste.
Pumpkin Errisery: A dry curry made with Pumpkin cubes, mixed with coconut, masala, urad dal, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Best enjoyed with steamed rice, and sambar, Errisery is made with other vegetables too, however the yellow pumpkin variation is the most popular one.
Puli Inji: A sweet and tangy chutney made with tamarind, ginger, green chillies, jaggery and curry leaves.
Palada Payasam: A sweet delicacy made with rice ada, sugar, ghee and milk, topped with cashews and raisins. This simple sweet item is very similar to the North-Indian kheer and is widely made across Kerala on Onam and other special occasions.
Parripu curry: A wholesome Kerala-style tadka dal made with split moong dal, ground coconut, spices and curry leaves. Distinctly yellow in colour, Parripu curry is a classic dish in Onam Sadhya.
Avial: A unique stew made with mixed vegetables first cooked in coconut milk, and later cooked in coconut oil and an aromatic spiced curd.
Rasam: A comforting and warm lentil dish, Kerala-style Rasam is made with tamarind paste, tomatoes, onions, chillies, spices, ginger, garlic etc cooked in coconut oil.
Upperi: A deep fried sweet snack or sweet banana chips made from bananas cooked in jaggery syrup and roasted in rice flour for a crunchy yet sweet snack.
Olan: A light dish prepared with ash-gourd and black-eyed peas, coconut milk, curry leaves and coconut oil.
Kootu curry: A popular traditional side dish that is a thick curry made with vegetables and legumes, Kootu curry contains black chickpeas, urad dal, yam, ginger, and curry leaves.
Inji Thayir: One of the simplest yet most essential dishes in Onam Sadhya, Inji Thayir is yoghurt with grated ginger, finely chopped green chillies, curry leaves and mustard seeds.
Pappadam: Crispy papads made from rice flour and fried in coconut oil make for the best snack to munch on between sweet and savoury items in Onam Sadhya.
Try all these Onam special food items this Onam at a Sadhya near you. Happy Onam!