Onam Sadya , the main highlight of the state festival of Kerala. I feel like I don’t have enough words to describe that grand feast of Onam. Or am I overwhelmed with words that I can’t pour it out here? Not sure… But I will try to best describe it. Onam starts with the beginning of the Malayalam month, Chingam. Almost all festivals in India has some relation to the Indian Mythology. Onam too has a strong relation to Hindu mythology.
Onam starts with the beginning of the Malayalam month, Chingam. Almost all festivals in India has some relation to the Indian Mythology. Onam too has a strong relation to a story in Hindu mythology. We believe the asura king Mahabali, make his homecoming from patala (underworld) to visit his subjects every year during Onam. In remembrance to the prosperity and wealth during the reign of Mahabali, we celebrate Onam in a grand way as possible.
Onam has one more significance. It is the harvest festival of Kerala. After the strong and rough monsoon season comes Chingam, the beginning of harvest season. In the past, that was the prosperous time of wealth in Kerala. Now everything has changed a lot. Still, we celebrate Onam in memory of that agrarian harvest.
talking about my childhood memories of Onam…. I think what mattered to us children was not the Onam festival or Sadya. We eagerly waited for Onam to arrive so that we will get a 10-day vacation. We, cousins, will gather together at my mother’s house. The first thing we do in the morning was gather flowers to make pookalam. A guava tree was there in front of the house. My grandfather will make a swing with ropes and wood tied to the strongest branch of the guava tree. We used to swing a lot…The elder ladies in the family will be busy making Sadya on Thiruvonam day.
Since Onam is about celebrating the harvest, Onam Sadya is an inevitable part of the festival. My interest in making Onam Sadya started only 5 years ago when we came to the US. Until then, my mother and mother-in-law used to prepare Sadya. I just helped them with cutting vegetables and stirring the curry. Since I don’t want to miss Onam Sadya, I started making it. Lucky me, this year I will be enjoying the Sadya with the whole family in my homeland.
Enough about my blah…blah….right? Coming to the point, Onam Sadya is a grand vegetarian banquet in which cooked red rice (Kerala matta rice), the main dish, is served along with 20+ side dishes in banana leaf,all in a single course. The traditional puddings like payasam or pradhaman will be served almost to the end of Sadya.
Laying each dish in the banana leaf has a unique way passed down from generations. Although we don’t follow this, you can, if you want. Cucumbertown a detailed and beautiful description of the anatomy of Onam Sadya here. They also have a video demo of the Onam Sadya.
Anatomy of Onam Sadya
- Fried Plantain Chips (recipe here)
- Sharkara varatti (recipe here)
- Ghee (recipe here)
- Parippu Curry
- Inji curry or Puli inji (recipe here)
- Kurukku kaalan
Maybe the list of recipes will grow (I wish). For me, Sadya is the most filling and satisfying meal that I will crave even after the very next day of Onam. This will never happen to me with a chicken or beef curry. Only a vegetarian sadya can do this wonder.
Happy Onam to all. Be blessed with prosperity, health and happiness.