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Decoding the Onam Sadhya: a visual and delectable feast

Aug 31, 2020 14:30 IST

Stunning flower rangolis or pookallams, boat races and pulilkali or tiger dances complete the 10-day long Onam festival celebrations.

The spirit of celebration is however incomplete without the Onam Sadhya, an elaborate multi-course meal relished by people on banana leaves while sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Here's a quick guide on how you can serve your Sadhya!


A typical Sadhya includes over 25 dishes. From curries and pickles, to sweets, the meal is a riot of flavours. Serving the meal on a banana leaf is an art in itself and is considered beneficial for health. You begin by placing a clean leaf in front of each person, the narrow end of the leaf must point towards the left.

Start by serving the different items from the top left tip of the leaf and then move towards the right edge.

A pinch of salt, pappadam, a ripe banana, some banana chips are served first.

Rice is served on the bottom half of the leaf. Parippu, a kind of dal served with ghee in the first course followed by sambar in the next and pulissery which is a spiced buttermilk in coconut base as the final course. Some families serve Rasam which is a soup made with tomatoes, tamarind juice and pepper.

The meal is incomplete without payasam or kheer. It is made either with jaggery or sugar and rice and has a rich flavour.

Sadhya is best enjoyed when eaten with the hand.

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