The Concept of Onam Sadhya Welcoming the King


God’s Own Country Kerala is a delight to be in during Onam as the state comes alive with flowers, singing,play , fun. The harvest festival is celebrated in Kerala to mark the return of King Mahabali, who is a legend ruled the state once, under whom the people were equal, prosperous and happy.  This is a 10 day festival.

Onam Sadhya, a 26 dish vegetarian feast which is served on the 8 , 9 and 10th day of Onam. Sadhya in Malayalam, means a banquet. It is the elaborate vegetarian meal, traditionally served on a mat laid on the floor. The dishes are served on a plantain leaf.  The making and the eating of the Onam sadya  is a noon meal.



The biggest Sadhya is serve at  Pardasardi temple in Aramula ,   64 items is made for the Aranmula boatrace, a popular event conducted during Onam There is a popular Malayali saying, "Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam", which means "We should have the Thiruvonam lunch even if it costs us to sell our properties". There is even a distinct order in the way the food is served on the banana leaf. Pappadumis placed on the extreme left of the leaf. On the top of the big pappadum, banana is served. Starting from the right of the papad, salt, sarakarapuratti and banana wafers are placed. Only after this, ginger lime and mango pickles are served on the leaf. On the right, 'cabbage thoran' is served. Finally avial and kuttu curry are served

Home Maker and Cook Ginu Vinu , who has married  psychologist  A P J Vinu and settled in kakinada, recalls here onam celebrations during here stay in kerala, specailly for cooking for ona sadya was a family team work, and we enjoy evey part of the process , i cook all the kerala varities of sadya and invite malyai and non malyalee friends for sadhya in kakianda during this 10 days of celeberations. 

“You must end the feast with curd rice and top it off with a plantain. Your stomach will settle down and digestion will be easy,”

 “I always pray before I start cooking and I ask god for good health and seek his blessings,”   which is the secret of my tasty cooking. 



'Payasam', a sweet and tempting porridge is one of the favourite desserts served for sadhya atleast 4 different variety of payasam/pradaman are served along with Parippu, Sambar, Rasam, Pulisseri, Kaalan, Avial, Thoran, Olan, Pachadi, Mango pickle, Naranga curry, Papadum, Banana, Curd or Buttermilk, and plantain chips.

The main dish is plain boiled rice, served along with other dishes collectively called Kootan curries, which include curries like

Kaaya varuthatha (banana chips), 

Chena varuthatha (yam chips), 

Sarkara upperi (Jaggery coated banana chips) 

lime pickle 

kaduggu maga Achar  ( mango pickle)

Olan ( a puli inji (tamarind & ginger chutney) 

Theeyal (mixed vegetable gravy), 

Erissery (mashed beans and pumpkin with coconut gravy),

Kichadi (Gourd in mildly spiced yoghurt), 

Avial  (Mixed vegetable , coconut curry)

Puliserry (yogurt based curry), 

Kootu curry (black chickpeas curry), 







How is it Served

There is a distinct order of serving the the grand feast of Onam. Pappad or Pappadum is to be served on the extreme left. On top of the big pappadum banana is served. 

From the right pappad - salt, banana wafers, sarkarapuratti fries are served. 

After this, ginger lime and mango pickles are served. 

Next comes 'vellarika', 'pavakka', beetroot and 'ullikitchadi'. 'Kitchadi' made of pineapple and banana splits or of grapes and apple is served along with this. On the right, 'cabbage thoran' is served. Then comes a thoran made of beans and avil followed by bread and green peas mix 'thoran'. The meal will be complete with the 'avial' and 'kootu curry'.

Rice is served when the guests seat themselves and just two big spoons is considered enough. 

After this 'parippu' and ghee is poured. 

Then comes Sambhar. Desserts are to begin with adaprathaman followed by 'Kadala Payasam'. 

This colourful arrangement on the lush green banana leaf makes the food look even more tempting and irresistible .


Eating food on a banana leaf is considered healthy. Placing hot food on the leaves emanates several nutrients that enrich  food. It also adds to the aroma of food and enhances the taste. Leaf is folded and closed once the meal is finished. Closing the leaf towards you (top to bottom – inward) signifies complete satisfaction with the food and closing it away from you would mean a signal to the cooks that it needs improvement.

At the end of the meal, the right corner of the leaf is slit upward to signify that the leaf has already been used. Apparently people polished all this off so spotlessly that often it was hard to make out if the leaf was used or not! And turning it toward oneself is a subtle message to the cook,  that there is room for improvement and folding it away from yourself, obviously means complete and utter satisfaction.

Avial - Real Kerala Curry  a must on onam Sadhya

No Sadhya or a festive gathering is complete without Avial.  

Avial is a delicious blend of mixed veggies in coconut and yogurt mixture. Seasoned with curry leaves and coconut oil, Avial is a nutritious as well as traditional dish in Kerala cuisine. Avial  is a complete vegetables like, cucumber, tomato,  brinjal, elephant yam, carrot, drumstick, potato, snake gourd,   beans, plantain etc as per choice. 

It is supposed to have been invented by Bhima (one of the Pandava brothers) during their exile. According to the legend, when Ballav (Bhima’s name during this time) assumed his duties as the cook in the kitchen of Virata, did not know how to cook. One of the first things he did was to chop up many different vegetables, boil them together and top the dish with grated coconut. 

Stories connected to Avail Curry 

The  mythology  story in connection with Avail curry. Bheema is said to have prepared Avial, when there were unexpected guests for King Virata and he needed to serve meals for them. There was no sufficient vegetables to cook any single recipe for side dish, so Bheema used what ever available vegetables to make a new dish, which came to know as Avial.



Written by Ginu Vinu

Cook and Home maker

vaidyangar , Ramanayyapeta,

kakinada, Andhra pradesh