The Art of Serving Onasadya: Etiquettes and Traditions
art of serving onam sadhya

Unveiling the Art of Serving Onam Sadhya: Exploring Etiquettes and Traditions

What is the right way to serve Onasadya? All details on the etiquettes and traditions covered here :

Onam is a grand festival held throughout the state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival that lasts ten days. It is primarily observed during Chingam (a month in the Malayalam calendar), beginning in mid-August and lasting until mid-September.

These ten days capture the authentic culture and beauty of Kerala. Onam Sadhya (grand meal), snake boat races, pulikali (tiger dance), folk dances, Pookalam (flower rangoli), and Tripunithura Athachamayam are among the several celebrations held throughout the 10-day festival.  

Onam Sadhya, Kerala’s most traditional dinner, is served in a banana leaf on the festival’s last day. All the rules, the variety of foods, the arrangement of the dishes, the role of hospitality, and the sense of community bonding during the feast are covered in depth here.

onam sadhya

The highlight of the Onam festival is the Onam Sadhya. It is a well-known feast celebrated during the festival. Sadhya unites the community and symbolizes the memorable end of Onam. It is a symbol of prosperity that existed during the ruling time of Mahabali. 

This single-course meal spread has around 24 to 28 dishes. It is served on a green and washed banana leaf. The leaf is oriented so that the tip points to the left. The person served traditionally sits on the floor with crossed legs on a thazhapaya (pine leaf mat). 

The vegetarian meal is nutritious, delicious, and has different flavors and textures. The preparations for this grand feast begin much in advance.

Preparation Process

Preparations for Onam Sadhya begins a day in advance. All the ingredients are carefully chosen for cooking these dishes. Coconut oil and ghee are the primary fats used in this meal.

Onam Sadhya Dishes Spread

onasadhya list of items
The Onam Sadhya Meal Spread!

Onam Sadhya is a compilation of multiple traditional dishes from across the states. From a variety of curries to fried snacks to sweets, it is a massive and grand feast. The meal is divided into the following categories : 

a. Main Course 

The Sadhya main course includes the following dishes : 

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  1. Rice 
  2. Parippu Curry 
  3. Sambar 
  4. Rasam 
  5. Moru Curry 

b. Payasam

Multiple different types of payasam are presented in the Sadya meal spread : 

  1. Paruppu Pradhaman
  2. Ada Pradhaman
  3. Paal Payasam

c. Side Dishes

  • Kalan
  • Olan
  • Eriserry
  • Avial
  • Beans Mezhukupuratti
  • Mambazha Puliserry
  • Kootu Curry
  • Cabbage Thoran
  • Cucumber Kichadi
  • Pineapple Pachadi

d. Pickles & Sweets 

  • Sharkara Upperi
  • Nendran Chips
  • Inji Puli
  • Instant Mango Pickle
  • Moru
  • Papadam

Arrangement Of The Dishes

During Onam Sadhya, the dishes are arranged in a precise manner. There is a specific order to be followed, and each dish has its own spot on the banana leaf. The upper half of the leaf has room for sturdier dishes like koottukari and thoran.

On the other hand, the lower half has the runnier dishes like rasam, sambar, and payasam, that could potentially flow out. Condiments and other items eaten in small proportions are placed towards the narrow end. The arrangement of dishes looks like this : 

  • The papad is served first, on the left end of the leaf.
  • The second addition is a banana, which is kept just above the papad. Sarkaravaratti, banana wafers, salt, and fries are also served on the right side of the papad.
  • Pickles ranging from mango to inji thairu are served from left to right.
  • Then comes olan, kichadi, pachadi, avial, and thoran (stir fry).
  • Rice is served in the plantain leaf’s center. It is then topped with Parippu (a liquid curry consisting of tiny gram and ghee).
  • The next dish in succession is Sambar, which is served on the rice’s left side. Rasam and moru curry are served next.
  • Furthermore, Ada prathaman and parippu prathaman are popular forms of payasams offered as dessert on Onasadya.

Buttermilk is served towards the end of the meal to help balance the sweetness of the payasam. It marks the end of the meal and aids digestion.

Eating Sadhya The Right Way

Sadhya represents a very clean structure. Ideally, every dish on the Sadhya is mixed and eaten. It is certainly not the number of dishes that makes Sadhya truly interesting. It is the art of eating Sadhya on a banana leaf that uplifts the overall experience.

How should Sadhya be eaten? Definitely not with a spoon! The proper and most authentic manner to eat Sadhya is with your bare hands. Even rice drizzled with curry, rasam, or sambar must be consumed with bare hands. And this is truly the ideal way to do it!

Final Words

Onam is a 10 day harvest festival of Kerala. It is said that the return of the legendary King Mahabali is celebrated by this organizing grand feast known as Onam Sadhya. 

It is an integral and valuable part of the Onam festival. Ideally, the food is eaten with the right hand without any cutlery. Though the dishes are served from left to right, they are eaten from right to left. 

Traditionally, Sadhya is served on a banana leaf. After the meal is completed, the banana leaf should be folded and closed. This symbolizes satisfaction of the meal.

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