Every Keralite celebrates Onam with enthusiasm and love for their traditional Thali “Sadya”. But not many are aware that this culturally rich food platter comes with a great historic significance of its own.
Onam is considered one of the most popular festivals celebrated by the people of Kerala, a day filled with good food, conversations, and prosperous vibes all around. Just like every festival, Onam is also a grand celebration of heritage, culture, food, and its lip-smacking Sadya. The thali comprises all the popular traditional cuisines prepared in every house of Kerala. But did you know the Onam Sadya feast is linked with the history and the sacrifice of a King?
The Onam Sadya comes with a history not many are aware of, and we are here to give you a little insight into the grand feast of Kerala!
Sacrifice by the great King!
Kerala has known many rulers over the decades, but one such king held a special place in people’s hearts. King Mahabali was the most generous king that the people of Kerala have ever witnessed. With empathy for the poor and gratitude for the privileged, he had a heart worth of gold for everyone. His rule was often mentioned as the Golden Era of Kerala, and King Mahabali charmed everyone with his wittiness, generosity, and respect for all.
King Mahabali was Lord Vishnu’s devotee, and so Lord Vishnu himself once appeared on earth to test the generosity of the king. He came disguised as a poor Brahmin and asked Mahabali a favour. As per mythology, he requested a piece of land equal to his three footsteps. As soon as the king said yes to granting his wish, lord Vishnu’s Avatar of Vamana (Dwarf in Sanskrit) grew to cosmic proportions. His first step covered the entire earth, while the second took in the mid-world between earth and heaven. By then, there was no space left for him to claim his third step. Seeing this, the king offered his own head for his final step and pushed the king to the nether land, aka patala. After this, Lord Vishnu revealed his identity and expressed his contentment with the king.
The King then requested Lord Vishnu to allow him to visit Kerala once a year. Seeing his attachment to the kingdom and people, Lord Vishnu accepted his request and bestowed him a boon of being worshipped for ages. During his departure, the King wished goodwill and prosperity for his people and blessed them to be well-fed for generations to come. And so, to honour his wish and visit, the people of Kerala make Sadya Thali to let him know that they are happy.
Onam Sadya for All!
Considered a symbol of happy living and prosperity, the Onam Sadya is prepared by every Keralite with enthusiasm. A single Sadya Thali typically consists of 24-28 dishes and can range up to 60 delicacies. Rice, coconut gratings, coconut milk, and coconut oil are the essential ingredients for preparation in most dishes.
The rich delicacy is enjoyed traditionally on a banana leaf without any fork or spoons. Using only hands to eat, the Sadya thali is also eco-friendly since the banana leaf is bio-degradable. The main dish is rice accompanied by Sambar, Aviyal, Uppari, Parippu, Rasam, Pullisseri, Kalan, pickles, and more! For dessert, Payasam is a traditional sweet prepared in different combinations, the most popular being with rice, milk, and sugar.
Even today, the tradition of celebrating Onam with a Sadya Thali prevails in Kerala, and every household celebrates Onam.